How to watch
Start time: 8:30 PM EST / 5:30 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Stars region: FS-SW+
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/Rogers NHL Live
Going in with three consecutive wins, the Montreal Canadiens played a very good game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. Tied 5-5 until about the last minute, the pressure the league’s top team was able mount in the third finally got them the win, but the Canadiens should be happy with their effort despite failing to take a point away from the contest.
A second consecutive loss would be quite irksome for the team, however, especially to one in a very similar position, also clinging to the final wild-card spot, in the Western Conference.
The Stars are a better defensive team than the Lightning squad Montreal just faced, sitting near the top of the league in goals against. Chances are the Canadiens won’t put up five goals tonight, but it will still be a winnable game for the visitors in the last game to wrap up the road trip and the 2018 calendar year.
Tale of the Tape
|54.4% (3rd)||Corsi-for pct.||46.2% (29th)|
|3.15 (12th)||Goals per game||2.72 (27th)|
|3.23 (23rd)||Goals against per game||2.64 (3rd)|
|13.6% (29th)||PP%||20.0% (17th)|
|77.0% (25th)||PK%||82.5% (9th)|
The Habs only managed one tally in their first meeting of the year, played in late October as offence was usually coming easy for the team. It was a testament to the defensive play the Stars are enjoying, and Ben Bishop is a big reason why.
The former Lightning netminder stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced on October 30, and ranks fifth in the NHL among netminders to play at least 10 games with a .926 save percentage. He may not be much of an actor, but in 2018-19 he’s a been a great goaltender for a Stars team desperately trying to the make the post-season after a few near misses.
Those in charge of the more financial aspects of the franchise don’t seem to be enjoying a more defensive approach. By now you’ve heard all about the comments directed toward both the media in Dallas and superstar forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
While the two are still atop the team leaderboard (with Alexander Radulov joining them), they’re a bit below their typical season paces. Enough to be called out for underperforming? Perhaps that has more to do with the team’s recent playoff drought than the actual players themselves.
Whatever the motive, the Stars had a win in the game before the comments (a shutout victory no less), and they won again in the one on Saturday. It was the first time the team scored five goals in over a month, though neither of the criticized players had a point, so it seems the debate about the rant’s effectiveness is still raging
A more interesting storyline to follow will be the performances of two Finnish rookies in the game. Dallas defenceman Miro Heiskanen has cooled off a bit, but is still playing major minutes on the Stars’ back end. Jesperi Kotkaniemi had one of his best games in the NHL on Saturday night, looking especially good working as a half-wall quarterback on the second power-play unit.
It will also be interesting to see who gets the start in goal for Montreal. Antti Niemi has had a rough time in recent games, and just came off a back-to-back set. The other option is Michael McNiven, who has yet to play a minute of NHL action. Despite not playing at the peak level, the Stars offence is still capable of doing a lot of damage. On the last game of the road trip, it may be worth the gamble to see what the rookie can offer before the team heads home to the Bell Centre.