About last night …

Now the Canadiens know how the Islanders, Thrashers, Hurricanes and Leafs felt.

The game should habve been over in the first period.

The Canadiens grabbed a 2-0 lead and peppered Pascal Leclaire with quality shots.

It could have been 5-0.

But it wasn’t.

And Leclaire kept the Senators in it long enough to come back, seize momentum, win puck battles and bag a W.

 

The gang on L’Antichambre thought the Canadiens played their best game of the road trip.

The Senators were held to 28 shots – the first game in which Jaro Halak has faced fewer than 40. 

The Canadiens seem to have found a second line. Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Benoit Pouliot had 14 of the Canadiens’ 31 shots. Pouliot, who got the first of what will be many goals in this uniform,  has a great set of skills – speed, hands, hockey smarts – plus size and a wilingness to play in traffic.

Gionta was his Energizer Bunny self, especially in the first period. It’s great to have him back in the lineup

Freed of BGL, the fourth line played double-digit minutes. rather than pout over his demotion, Sergei Kostitsyn was particularly energetic.

Mike Cammalleri scored an historic goal, the 20,000th in the history of the franchise.

Andrei Markov played 24:25. His cross-ice pass to Andrei Kostitsyn on the Cammalleri goal was a thing of beauty.

These positives aside, I thought Ottawa was full value for the win.

They built off their goaltenders’ excellence to come back from 0-2. They didn’t allow Kerry Fraser’s ridiculous call on what should have been the lead goal slow them down.

Through most of the second period and all of the third, Ottawa won most of the puck battles. And once Chris Neil gave them the lead, the Senators played shut-down to perfection.

The officiating?

Horrible – by two veterans, Fraser and Bill McCreary.

Realizing that they’d jobbed Ottawa on the disallowed goal, the refs swallowed their whistles on a few borderline calls in the third period.

The Canadiens took five minor penalties.

The Senators: NONE!

On the face of it, that’s totally ridiculous. And I think the refs turned a blind eye to a couple of infranctions.

But how could the Canadiens exert as much pressure as they did in the first period without Ottawa committing a single trip, hold, interference …?

I think it’s because they’re small.

Dominance in the offensive zone is based on skill, rather than the physicality that draws penalties. Defenders can watch slick passes by Markov et al,. But when push literally comes to shove in the corners, the slot or in front of the net, the Canadiens’ skill players aren’t tough enough to draw fouls.

Just my theory. I invite debate … and I’m sure we’ll hear from the Ref Conspiracy lobby.

The lack of size is particularly acute at centre. Plekanec, Gomez, Metropolit: they’re in very tough against the likes if Mike Fisher.

Another problems: Faceoffs. The Canadiens were 27-40 against Ottawa. Tomas Plekanec, who takes many important draws, was 4-16. Scott Gomez wasn’t much better: 9-14.

Canadiens centres were 20-39 on draws in Toronto, 26-39 in Carolina and 24-35 in Atlanta.

It’s a problem. The Canadiens are always chasing the puck, and they don’t have the physical game to go get it.

On to Tampa … and a likely start for that guy who caught a puck on the bench tonight.

We’ll find out a lot about Carey Price on Wednesday.

•  •  •

Benoit Pouliot, who’s from Alfred, played in Ottawa – in front of friends and family – for the first time in his career.

And he was excellent.

I’m very excited about this guy.


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