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In the opening period of Wednesday night’s game, an unwitting fan wouldn’t have been able to tell which team had just finished last in the NHL a season ago and which had finished at the top of the mountain with a Stanley Cup. The Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche played an entertaining 20 minutes, trading chances and getting good play from every player dressed. The teams went into the intermission with the promise of another two periods of exciting play.
Right from the start of the middle frame, the Canadiens weren’t the same team. Perhaps the defending champions simply upped their level to one Montreal couldn’t reach, but the Habs’ passes weren’t as crisp, the defensive play wasn’t as effective, and the puck gravitated toward their zone for the rest of the contest.
Thanks to another strong goaltending effort, the Canadiens survived regulation, only giving up a power-play goal to cancel out the one their great play had earned in the opening period. They even had a chance to win the game in overtime when Jonathan Drouin decided he was going to be the one to win it, but Alexandar Georgiev denied his plan, and Colorado won on the next shot.
There’s one last chance tonight for the Habs on this particular road swing to earn a positive result without having to rely on their goaltender. They’ve already ensured at least an even record from the three-game set, but five out of six points, regardless of how they were ultimately accrued, would be something to build upon after the break. Guarding these final two points are the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars.
Tale of the Tape
|45.2% (26th)||Scoring-chances-for %||52.7% (8th)|
|2.70 (28th)||Goals per game||3.56 (5th)|
|3.45 (24th)||Goals against per game||2.79 (11th)|
|13.6% (32nd)||PP%||25.7% (9th)|
|78.8% (16th)||PK%||83.1% (4th)|
Jake Oettinger isn’t the goalie you want to face when you’re trying to end a sequence of games on a winning note, as Montreal discovered back on October 22 at the Bell Centre. That was one of the 15 starts he’s had this season in which he’s allowed two goals or fewer. The Canadiens catch him after a rare off night when he surrendered five goals to the Edmonton Oilers, but so far this season he’s responded to his other two five-goal games by giving up one and zero goals in his next start.
That’s a tough enough obstacle for Montreal to overcome, but while they’re focusing on solving one of the best young goalies in the game, the Stars are going to be launching waves of attack. As good as the defence is, the offence is even better: Dallas ranks fifth in the NHL averaging over three-and-a-half goals per contest. The last time the Habs scored more than three goals was seven games ago versus the Seattle Kraken.
Joe Pavelski netted three goals for Dallas when these two teams met for the first time this season, as he extended his career mark versus Montreal to 12 goals and 13 assists in 22 games. On that night, Jason Robertson netted his second goal of the season and in the 29 games since, he’s added another 22, currently sitting five back of Connor McDavid in the Rocket Richard race. Roope Hintz, Jamie Benn, Miro Heiskanen, Tyler Seguin, and Mason Marchment join those two with at least 20 points so far.
That level of depth throughout the lineup is impossible for the Canadiens to match in their current state, but maybe the great effort from Drouin in the previous game is a sign that he’s about to become more of a contributor for the team. We’ve rarely seen him make as many notable plays as he did versus Colorado, but he has been getting more involved in the offensive game since his return, registering more shots on target and looking more dangerous. Netting his first goal of the year would be a nice bit of secondary offence for the Habs, and just might help the Canadiens outproduce one of the league’s top clubs.