Up three points but with one fewer game to play, the win keeps the Habs in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic division. If they wish to stay there, they’ll need to find a way to overcome their lack of urgency against non-playoff squads. Looking at their less-than-demanding remaining schedule, it’s likely that the Canadiens won’t see another playoff-bound opponent until the tournament begins and it becomes semantically impossible to be playoff-bound any longer.
That path starts with the Dallas Stars tonight.
How to Watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT
In the Canadiens region: SNE (English), RDS (French)
In the Stars region: Fox Sports Southwest
Elsewhere: NHL Gamecenter, NHL.tv
Tale of the Tape
|52.40||Score-adjusted Corsi %||50.26|
|1.17||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.03|
It’s easy to forget that the Dallas Stars were a powerhouse last year, riding one of the league’s best offences to the top of the Western Conference and second place in the Presidents’ Trophy race.
Their great undoing last season was in their own zone, where the Stars played below-average defence in front of even worse goaltending. Unable to adequately shore up their defence at the trade deadline when they missed out Dan Hamhuis, the Stars run-and-gun strategy ultimately unravelled, with the six goals they allowed in their second round Game 7 loss to St. Louis serving as the exclamation point.
They wouldn’t miss on Hamhuis a second time though, locking him up in free agency and using him as one of their top-three defenders this season. The veteran Canadian has played possession-positive hockey in Texas, but it hasn’t been enough. This year’s Stars are allowing even more shot attempts against per 60, placing them among the league’s bottom-six teams in that category.
Compounding this problem is the situation in net, where General Manager Jim Nill made the confounding decision to bring back the same goaltending platoon that undermined his team last season. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have improved their numbers marginally over last year, but the Stars remain in the bottom-10 in team goaltending. Over the last 25 games, they’re in the league’s bottom-four.
As for last year’s vaunted offence, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin remain central this squad’s production. Each player is producing slightly fewer primary points per 60 than he did last year, but with both forwards still among the league’s top-15 scorers without the benefit of playing on a particularly effective powerplay, there’s not much to complain about.
There is room to quibble about the special teams, however, as both units have been an anchor on Lindy Ruff’s team. Despite what should be, on paper, a potent first unit of Benn, Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Eaves, and John Klingberg, the Stars have one of the league’s worst efficiency rates with the man advantage. Their current pace would see them end the season with about 47 powerplay goals, down 11 from last year’s tally. At the other end, the penalty kill has imploded, on pace to give up about 67 goals after last year’s group gave up just 44. This year’s PK numbers are the worst in the league, adding to the weight that Benn and Seguin just haven’t been able to carry.
Fifteen points back of the Blues, the Stars season is over, and with Eaves (now a member of the Anaheim Ducks) and burgeoning Montreal fan-favourite Jordie Benn now playing elsewhere, it’s clear that Nill is looking to the future.
For the Habs, it’s all about now. And while the truly meaningful games are two-and-a-half weeks away, it’d be nice to see the Canadiens play like a squad focused on the present.