How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CityTV, Sportsnet East (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Stars region: Fox Sports Southwest
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
Without any superstars in their lineup, the Montreal Canadiens’ identity has been that of a hard-working team, one that will grind you down with a relentless effort and bang away in the offensive zone until a goal is finally scored. When it’s embraced and executed by all 19 players on a given night, it can be an entertaining brand of hockey, and a successful one.
Realizing the unlikelihood of achieving their goal of making the post-season, that commitment level has waned in recent games. Large portions of the past handful of contests have been played without the constant pressure, getting reflected on the shot counter as the attackers often aren’t getting close enough to begin the barrage, and a steady drop in goals.
The players are operating in an in-between state where they still have a deep desire to win (obvious from their body language, third-period comeback efforts, and post-game comments) but also growing doubts about what that effort is going to gain them. It has led to a disastrous loss to Arizona, a demoralizing defeat in Boston, and a frustrating loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their attempt to salvage at least one game from this week’s slate won’t be any easier, as they now welcome the team with the third-ranked defence, the Dallas Stars, to the Bell Centre.
Tale of the Tape
|54.1% (3rd)||Corsi-for pct.||49.1% (19th)|
|2.95 (17th)||Goals per game||2.67 (25th)|
|3.05 (16th)||Goals against per game||2.49 (3rd)|
|18.8% (22nd)||PP%||20.5% (14th)|
|79.1% (17th)||PK%||81.5% (12th)|
In Dallas on November 2, the Canadiens were handed a loss by the 4-1 score that has become familiar over the past couple of games. The team was in a much different state of mind at that point of the season. They had won the previous three games, and then quickly bounced back with four wins in five outings after the loss, with Boston and Washington subsequent victims of the high-powered attack that was often netting four goals or more to begin the year.
Such defensive showings have been common for the Stars. They’ve held the opposition to two goals or fewer 30 times in the 57 games they’ve played, tying them for first in the league in that category. Both Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin have been excellent. with save percentages of .924 and .928, respectively, and both have goals-against averages under 2.40.
Defence has been a strength of the Stars for a few years now. The troubling thing for the Canadiens, every team that will face them the rest of the season, and those who draw them in the playoffs, is that the offence has finally begun to come to life. They’re now scoring three goals fairly regularly, which was an important development for the team that ranked fifth from the bottom in goals per game at the All-Star break.
The hottest players are Jamie Benn and Denis Gurianov, both of whom have six goals in this offensive outburst that began nine games ago. The team doesn’t have a single 20-goal-scorer in the lineup, which is surprising given the names in their forward group, but this stretch has several approaching the mark.
The members of the core will surely trade the lofty offensive totals they’ve enjoyed in the past for a great approach to the playoffs. The Stars haven’t gone beyond the second round since 2008, and this level of play could finally see them go on a deep run.