Michel Therrien thought your Montreal Canadiens played a good game in Ottawa Thursday night.
In remarks excerpted on L’Antichambre after the Canadiens’ 4-1 loss to the Senators, the coach said he “liked the effort.” Therrien felt the Canadiens dictated the pace of the game and had great scoring chances.
His team, Therrien said, played a solid road game and was not intimidated by the home side.
Citing “many positives”, Therrien praised the Canadiens execution, their skating and the pressure they were able to exert on the Senators.
Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner made the difference, Therrien said.
That being said …
Your Montreal Canadiens are on a season-high four-game losing streak.
They have scored 11 goals in their last seven games – after scoring 33 in their first 10.
The playoffs don’t begin in November. But if they did, the Canadiens would be clinging to the eighth and final berth in the Eastern Conference – one point ahead of Ottawa, which has a game in hand, and two points ahead of a couple clubs who hold a game in hand, Carolina and the Islanders, who are at the Bell Centre Sunday evening.
There is, of course, much hockey to be played. And with due respect to the kindly old coach, let’s hope the Canadiens play better than they did in Ottawa.
Yes, Robin Lehner faced 34 shots, while the Senators were held to 24. But how many of those shots did the Ottawa goaltender see clearly? And how many did Price attempt to draw a bead on through a jungle of legs, arms, sticks and bodies.
The only Canadien to trouble Lehner to any degree was wee Brendan Gallagher, whose team-leading feistiness drew four minor penalties … including one for goaltender interference.
With Gallagher off so often, the Canadiens’ penalty-kill was tseted. And once again, the PK pitched a shutout. There hasn’t been a power-play goal scored on them since the first period of San Jose’s visit to the Bell Centre, and that was almost two weeks ago.
The PK, which struggled in the early going, is now the NHL’s third most efficient, with an 87.3 kill rate. And the power play, which produced the Andrei Markov goal that gave the Canadiens a first-period lead, is sixth in the league at 23.4 per cent – just a hair behind Toronto.
Special teams are not an issue with the Canadiens.
Even strength? That’s another story. The Canadiens rank 14th in the league in 5-on-5 scoring.
Michel Bergeron stated the problem succinctly on L’Antichambre: the Canadiens don’t have a sniper.
“They don’t have a Bobby Ryan,” the ex-coach said. “They don’t have a Stamkos.”
From the day he was drafted, I’ve been convinced that Alex Galchenyuk is going to be a star in the NHL. But to reach that status, the kid needs a finisher.
Brendan Gallagher has the heart of a lion and, as mentioned, will happily crash the crease in pursuit of goals. But Gally’s friend Chucky needs a winger who can one-time those sweet saucer passes.
Galchenyuk makes me miss Mike Cammalleri.
And there are times, I’m afraid, when Therrien makes me miss Jacques Martin.
I heard an analyst – it might have been Ray Ferraro – recently list the critical times of a hockey game: the beginnings and endings of each period and the shifts immediately following a Goal For or a Goal Against.
Therrien always has his team ready for the start of games. The Canadiens were all over the Senators early, and Lehner kept the game scoreless.
But then after Markov scored, Therrien deploys the EGG line – not the best defensive trio. And Bobby Ryan ties it up.
After Mark Methot jumped on an Andrei Markov turnover to make it 2-1, Therrien sends out George Parros, Travis Moen and Ryan White.
Bing! Mark Borowiecki makes it 3-1.
Late in the game, Canadiens down by two and Carey Price on the bench: Francis Bouillon attempts to channel Bobby Orr. The Canadiens’ 38-year-old defenceman – who’s out with Raphael Diaz, the kids and Rene Bourque – turns the puck over at the Ottawa blueline and Kyle Turris scores an empty-netter.
Some sobering stats:
• The Canadiens lost 38 of 61 faceoffs. David Desharnais went 2-8 – the only entry on DD’s stat line. He had no shots, misses or shots blocked; no hits, no giveaways or takeaways.
• The Canadiens were outhit 38-20. Marc Methot and Zack Smith each had seven hits for Ottawa. P.K. Subban led the Canadiens with four.
• P.K. had nine shots on goal, Markov five. Seven Canadiens had no SoG.
• Carey Price made 20 saves while his teammates blocked 22 shots. Price was beaten three times on the first 12 shots he faced.
• Andrei Markov played 27:39 and blocked six shots. I know he plays a cerebral game and avoids big hits. And I know it’s a contract year.
But tabarnac, what’s Markov gonna have left in the tank come April?
And will he be making those sweet plays in bleu-blanc-rouge?