How to watch
On Wednesday night, one of the biggest dominoes set up ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline fell when Ben Chiarot was dealt to the Florida Panthers. It was expected soon after the season went off the rails that Chiarot wouldn’t stick with the team for the entire season, but it’s still the departure of a fixture for the Montreal Canadiens. He was with the team through its surprising post-season performances the last few seasons, a member of the Habs’ “trident” two years ago, which grew a fourth prong with the addition of Joel Edmundson last season.
Chiarot may not be the last player to leave within this period, and not even the only defenceman to don a new jersey. Brett Kulak is in the same position that Chiarot was, heading for unrestricted free agency when the season comes to an end. Then there’s Jeff Petry, who is not a one-run rental, but a longer-term piece if a team wants to contend over a multi-year window.
The Dallas Stars have been the subject of speculation as just such a team. They’re not currently in a playoff spot, but do have games in hand to help them get there. It’s not the comfortable position you usually see teams in when they decide to be deadline buyers, but the Stars do have an aging core and may be willing to make this kind of move. It would require some salary going the other way for a cap-strapped club, like one-time Hab Alexander Radulov, who just happens to have a matching cap hit (but no longer the offence to go with it). If the Stars are interested in Petry, they’ll get some up close and personal scouting tonight at the Bell Centre.
Tale of the Tape
|46.6% (25th)||Scoring-chances-for %||50.6% (14th)|
|2.47 (32nd)||Goals per game||2.88 (20th)|
|3.82 (32nd)||Goals against per game||2.95 (15th)|
|13.3% (31st)||PP%||23.4% (11th)|
|73.8% (29th)||PK%||78.4% (19th)|
If Petry wants to make a good impression on a potential suitor, he will need to be more focused on the details than he has been in recent games. Following a very good period of play for several weeks following the coaching change, his play has begun to revert to the quality we witnessed in Dominique Ducharme’s tenure. Turnovers that directly lead to chances and poor defensive reads aren’t coveted traits for contending teams.
Unfortunately, it’s a regression in form that has spread throughout the Habs’ defensive play, even with Edmundson returning from injury to play two of the past three games. Their recent opponents haven’t been strong by any stretch, but the Canadiens have been struggling to prevent high-danger chances against at five-on-five and on the penalty kill. The improvements in coverage we enjoyed in Martin St. Louis’s first days have all but disappeared.
Dallas’s defence has been hampered with an injury to star player Miro Heiskanen, and perhaps having the remaining blue-liners playing a spot higher than normal is beginning to take its toll, as the team has now lost three games in a row. The good news for them is that they don’t play any games versus division rivals with four-point swings during this slump, but they need to get all the points they can the rest of the way to have a shot.
Jason Robertson is doing his best to drag the team to a post-season berth. The recent NHL Star of the Week just hit the 30-goal milestone, and the 22-year-old winger sits first on the team in points per game, making 55 contributions on the scoresheet in 50 games. Twenty-three-year-old netminder Jake Oettinger is pulling his weight as well with some stellar play as he begins to take over the starting role for the team, posting a .918 save percentage in the process.
For the first time since January 12, the Canadiens’ crease will be manned by Jake Allen, finally ready to return more than two months after sustaining an injury in Boston. His name has also been mentioned in trade chatter as a player with another season remaining on his contract, but first he would need to play to prove his injury issues are behind him. He didn’t get to enjoy the brief period of good defensive play from his team, and if this game is anything like the last handful, he will get plenty of chances to show off his talents to interested parties.