Predicting how teams will react to the vagaries of the NHL schedule is one of those hockey imponderables.

For example Saturday night the Canadiens were in Dallas facing a team that had played the night before in Denver Colorado.  The Canadiens had a day off but their game against the Stars would be their third in four nights.   So where would advantage lie?

Turned out, the Stars handled the adversity of the schedule better than the Canadiens in a surgical 4-1 win.  What would be most frustrating for fans and coaches alike was the fact that one of the quickest NHL teams was beaten by one of the league’s slowest.  Put more bluntly, the Canadiens simply failed to answer the bell.  It’s one game of eighty-two and we know they can be very much better.  They’ll need to be Tuesday night against Boston.

MUCH ABOUT NOTHING

We often talk about the Canadiens five-on-five play which, until this game had been very good this season.  If you were only taking a shallow look at the stats sheet you would see the Canadiens with a 26-24 edge in scoring chances including territorial domination for the first two periods. But the whole story is written in the high danger scoring chances which favoured Dallas almost two-to-one (15-8).   Only Carey Price kept this game close until the middle of the third period when the Stars scored their second power play goal to make it 3-0. Even in that dominant first period the high danger chances were 6-3 for Dallas.  What that tells us is the Canadiens never really got control of this game.

WORRISOME

While five-on-five the Canadiens can play with almost any team in the league, their special teams are a different matter.  With those units,  if it ain’t one thing it’s the other.  If it’s not the penalty killing that cripples them it’s the power play.  In this game both units were horrible.  Dallas was 2-for-4 on their power play and followed the two power play goals with one on a penalty shot which gave the Stars their insurmountable 3-0 lead.   At the same time the Canadiens power play was a dog’s breakfast at 0-for-5.   One gets the feeling we’re going to be talking about special teams a lot this season and not in a positive way.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….This game was decided in the neutral zone where three of the four Canadiens lines had a really difficult night. The only line that did what was expected of them was Suzuki/Lehkonen/Byron. Problem is producing offense is part of that expectation. Still, they produced the Canadiens only goal. The underlying stats on the line was a 80.0 corsi possession number and a 3-1 edge in high danger scoring chances.

….If you’re worried about the state of Paul Byron’s game you are not alone. Only one shot on goal in this game. (He attempted only two). After 14 games and 186 minutes of ice time Byron has managed only eight shots on goal. The coaching staff preaches patience when it comes to Byron. I’m sure that commodity is unlimited.

….It says a lot about the game that the fourth line had the best scoring chances.  Eight of the Canadiens thirty-six shots came from the line with Nate Thompson leading all forwards with four.

….Not that they avoided the total criticism, there were some good signs in the game from some of the defensemen with question marks next to their names. Ben Chiarot’s play continues to grow game-by-game. Same thing with Cale Fleury.  I especially like what they are bringing physically.  In a game like this, once again Victor Mete seemed to get buried.

…. What was a great looking power play through the season’s first nine games (27%) has created one goal in the last sixteen advantages over the last five-plus games.  On the other side, after killing five straight penalties over the previous three games they fell back to early season form by giving up two in four Dallas chances.

….Sometimes you have look at the larger picture.  When the Canadiens set out on their three game road trip, most felt it would be considered a success if they could take four of six available points.  They accomplished it with the Arizona and Vegas wins.  The Canadiens are now a credible 4-2-2 on the road this season.

MOVING ON

Home again and a more civilized three-game week ahead. The Canadiens will practice Monday and host the Bruins Tuesday night. Thursday in Philadelphia and then back home for Los Angeles Saturday night.