The ideal scenario would have been a win last night and an utterly meaningless game at the ACC on Saturday.
But that didn’t happen.
So your Montreal Canadiens have to have a decent game in Toronto, where the Leafs will play them tough, or ride a two-game losing streak into the postseason.
At least Hockey Night in Canada is guaranteed an entertaining marquee match-up. I assume the Canadiens will bring something approximating their A-game.
Which wasn’t the case in Kanata.
As Michel Therrien pointed out in his famous rant, hockey is a game of passion, emotion and intensity.
All were lacking, for the most part, against the Senators.
I’m disinclined to beat up too much on our boys. They began the game well – 12 shots in the first period – but Craig Anderson may be the long-awaited answer to Ottawa’s goaltending problems. Notwithstanding a lineup loaded with AHL call-ups, the Senators played a pretty good game.
Jason Spezza was oustanding: a goal, an assist, 12-6 on draws and plus-2.
The Senators dominated the faceoff circle to the tune of a 31-15 advantage. That left the Canadiens chasing the puck all night – a trend that was particularly evident during that painful-to-watch five-minute power play.
Best of the Canadiens was Andrei Kostitsyn. Arpon Basu has a detailed analysis of the Belarusan enigma, who will play against old antagonist Mikhail Grabovski on Saturday.
AK46 is combining with Tomas Plekanec (who did not have a great night in Ottawa) and a revived Michael Cammalleri to give the Canadiens the kind of top-line play we saw early in the season.
Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta played well last night, but the absence of Max Pacioretty on their left wing is a wound that Mathieu Darche, as hard as he works, cannot heal.
It will be interesting to see how the third and fourth lines play against Toronto. David Desharnais made some nifty moves and passes last night, but linemates Benoit Pouliot and Yannick Weber couldn’t finish anything. The Lars Eller-Ryan-White-Tom Pyatt unit didn’t bring much in the way of the physicality and energy energy you need from a fourth line.
Hal Gill and P.K. Subban were weak on Bobby Butler’s goal. Roman Hamrlik and James Wisniewski were on for the winner. In his return to the lineup, Jaro Spacek played 16 minutes with Paul Mara and blocked three shots.
In what may have been his last appearance of the season, Alex Auld made some good stops and couldn’t be faulted for the Ottawa goals.
On to TO for a must-not-suck game.
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I actually didn’t think the effort was all that bad. I had half expected the team not to show up at all, and I certainly didn’t expect anything like the intensity we saw against Chicago. The first two periods were decent, the third not so much, and faceoffs and the powerplay definitely need work. But there’s not much that can be concluded from a game like this, and I’m not at all worried the Habs will play like this next week. I know they can bring the necessary intensity and focus when it really counts.
I was glad to see Gionta score; it’s been a while. And it’s reassuring that Mike Cammalleri seems to have found the pinpoint accuracy of his shot, which has been missing most of the season.
As for Price, the RDS guys suggested giving him a period or half the game, then putting Auld in. That way Price would stay sharp, but still get some rest with minimal risk of injury. I would either do that, or just play Auld. I’m not sure that playing twenty or thirty minutes between now and the playoffs would have any effect.
And I would definitely give Hamrlik the game off and use Gill minimally.