The Montreal Canadiens flipped the script.
For what feels like most of this third-complete season, the typical Habs game has seen Montreal outplayed for the majority of the game, reliant on Carey Price and other star players for some game-swinging play, and ultimately, a victory.
Last night, the Habs put themselves in position to win. They took on one of the league's best teams and won two periods. In the second period, where the Blackhawks took the territorial advantage, the Canadiens produced the tying and go-ahead markers. Most painfully, the Habs had two glorious puck-in-the-crease chances behind Antti Raanta toward the end of the third, and cashed neither. The second of those opportunities would almost immediately transform into the rush that produced Brandon Saad's winning goal. Chicago's two points were not undeserved, but seeing the Habs perform well, especially relative to expectations, and end up with a gut-wrenching loss? Tough to take.
For the first time this season, the Canadiens' record over their last ten games is under .500. Even worse, their most recent loss took their #2 centre, as Lars Eller suffered an injury that leaves him questionable for this evening. Tonight, they get a chance to reclaim some momentum. With the dependable Eller out, and the impressive but untested Sven Andrighetto likely in, we'll see if the Habs can accomplish that goal.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
In Canada (French): TVA Sports
In Canada (English): City
In Texas and Surrounding Area: FoxSports Southwest
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|50.30||Fenwick % (Within 1)||50.73|
|1.02||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.90|
Know Your Enemy
There's something wrong with the Dallas Stars.
General Manager Jim Nill loaded up this summer, taking a team that already boasted top-tier weapons Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and adding Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. With a top six forward group overflowing with talent, and backed by workhorse keeper Kari Lehtonen, the Stars spent the summer hearing their names put forth as Western contenders. It hasn't exactly played out that way.
The Stars sit second-to-last in the Western Conference, ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers. Their supposedly reliable goaltender has been abysmal, putting forth the NHL's 48th ranked even strength save percentage of .914. Their depth on the right wing has been hit hard, as Valeri Nicushkin, Patrick Eaves, and Rich Peverley have all missed time. Finally, as any Stars fan will tell you, the team is still missing a #1 defenceman. Trevor Daley has been handed the role, but has found it difficult to tread water so far.
Dallas has the talent to perform better than they have so far, but as it stands, they're a vulnerable team. The Canadiens need to earn their points while they're available, and this is clearly one of those games.
Last Time Out
Last time out, the Habs did just that. After a rough start to the game, P.K. Subban queued up his own personal highlight reel. He sent Max Pacioretty in on a breakaway, and Patches made the right decision (anything other than the backhand deke is acceptable) by firing a hard wrister past Lehtonen. Next, Subban baffled the Stars D, weaving down the left-hand side before centring a perfect pass to David Desharnais in the slot. Saving the best for last, Subban engineered the Canadiens third goal, pulling puck out of the corner before out-waiting the entire Stars defensive contingent, rifling another impressive goal.
Games like last night's encourage the idea that the Habs aren't totally reliant on an exclusive cadre of players to keep them competitive, and ultimately, the Canadiens are going to need a more consistent team effort if they're to contend this season. In the mean time, though, a performance similar to the Canadiens last match-up with Dallas might not be hard to enjoy, either.