The Montreal Canadiens’ road trip has come to an end, and it wasn’t the voyage the players would have hoped for. Despite starting it off with a win over the New York Islanders, the Canadiens claimed just four points in the six games, allowing five goals in each of three of the last four contests.
They started out well enough last night in Columbus, scoring the first goal of the game less than a minute in. But the Blue Jackets quickly turned that lead into a deficit, and used an opportunistic first 40 minutes to coast to a 5-2 victory; their fifth in a row.
Brendan Gallagher was the one to score that early goal, taking his season total to a career-best 25, putting him right on pace to hit 30 before the season comes to an end.
Normally, playing the Dallas Stars has been a good way for a player to boost his offensive stats, but that hasn’t been the case this year. Dallas is one of the top defensive teams in the league, and will pose a significant challenge to a team already struggling to score goals.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In Canada: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Panthers region: FS-SW+
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
The Habs saw that defensive game first-hand at American Airlines Center on November 21, finding the net just a single time (you get one guess at who scored the goal).
It hasn’t been because of standout performances from the goaltenders. Kari Lehtonen ranks 15th in save percentage among goalies to play at least 10 games, at .921, while Ben Bishop, who has played nearly twice as many games as the starter, sits at just .917.
The main reason for their success on the defensive side of the puck is that they simply don’t allow many shots to get to their goaltenders. The Stars are one of just three teams to allow an average of less than 30 shots per game, and rank just behind the Boston Bruins in shots allowed per 60 minutes of five-on-five time, at 28.9 (Boston sits ar 27.9)
Julius Honka (second), Stephen Johns (eighth), Dan Hamhuis (21st), and former Canadiens defender Greg Pateryn (27th) all rank among the top 31 blue-liners to play 300 minutes this season in shots against per 60 minutes of even-strength play. The team has clearly bought into Ken Hitchcock’s system in his return behind the bench of the team from Texas.
The offence hasn’t been at the level it was two years ago when the Stars scored 267 goals to lead the league. Yet the team still has several players among the top point-producers in the NHL. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are once again having great years, hitting 60 points already. John Klingberg is not far behind with 57, a mark that leads all defencemen and has him as one of the top candidates to claim the Norris Trophy.
There is another 60-point man on the team as well, and that is none other than Montreal’s 2016-17 MVP, Alexander Radulov. It will be the first game at the Bell Centre since his incredible NHL return with the team last season. You can expect him to receive a great ovation when we takes to the ice for the first time; a deserved reward for what he did for the team a year ago.