The result left the Canadiens winless in their two games against Northeast Division rivals.
They’ll get a chance to improve to .500 on the weekend, when the Canadiens play back-to-back afternoon games against the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa.
Michel Therrien will give his players Thursday off. They’ll be back to the practice rink in Brossard Friday morning, by which time the kindly old coach and his staff will have studied video of the Wednesday loss (or as much of it as they can bear to watch) and devised some tweaks to prepare the team for the Sabres.
I’m not privy to Therrien’s brainstorming, but here are a few suggestions:
• Play Carey Price in both weekend games. Peter Budaj was not responsible for the loss in Ottawa, and the Canadiens would not have won 1-0 with Price in nets. But the number-one goaltender makes the kind of saves that lift a team when the game hangs in the balance. Beaten early by Tomas Plekanec on the first of six Canadiens power-plays, Craig Anderson was a wall thereafter.
Anderson is the league’s top rated goalie, with a GAA of 0.99 and a save percentage of .967. Brandon Prust will never be mistaken for Mike Bossy, but Anderson’s two saves on Prust were the best the Canadiens have seen in an opposing goaltender this season.
• Give Ryan White a couple days in the pressbox. White leads the NHL with 42 minutes in penalties. Prust is second with 41, but that total includes his three majors for fighting. White has two majors; and while I think fighting is stupid and should be a game misconduct, it has its role in the current NHL.
What Therrien correctly characterized as “inexcusable” was White’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after wily Chris Phillips had held his stick and suckered White into a roughing call.
Yes, the refs blew that … as they did the cream-puff roughing call on Colby Armstrong. But where does White – a fourth-round draft choice with fewer than 100 NHL games on his CV – get off chirping at the officials?
Brain-dead … and he should sit for Mike Blunden.
• Play P.K. Subban on Saturday. The defence corps, superb during the Canadiens’ four-game winning streak, was frequently outmuscled in front of the net and overwhelmed by the swarming Senators. Playing his third game in four nights, Andrei Markov was not the dominating presence we saw during the winning streak. He and Alexei Emelin were on for the two power-play goals scored during White’s penalties.
Francis Bouillon was a minus-2. Josh Gorges was the only Dman not on for any Ottawa goals.
Coming off a pretty thorough butt-kicking, the Canadiens need a spark. P.K. will provide one.
• Too bad Subban can’t play left wing. Max Pacioretty is sorely missed, and the Lars Eller experiment doesn’t seem to be working. Therrien dropped Eller to the fourth line and elevated Travis Moen to play with David Desharnais and Erik Cole.
Moen is an honest, hard-working hockey player. But as last season amply demonstrated, he’s not a Top Six forward.
Tomas Plekanec was the best of the Canadiens in Ottawa, and his line will remain intact. Prust will stay with Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk, at least to start Saturday’s game. The fourth line will be Moen, Armstrong and probably Blunden, who’s big and can skate.
I don’t know what to do with the erstwhile number one line.
Pacioretty is out for another three weeks. Several members of the Commentariat think DD would be in the pressbox if his name were Dennis Drummond.
I don’t buy into that. Nor do I think Eller – at least at this stage of his career – is a better playmaker for Cole and whatever warm body they can find to play LW.
Eller has size. He can skate. There are flashes of scoring ability.
But he’s not physical – which hurts him in his coach’s estimation. Eller lacks vision. He does not have the hockey IQ of a Plekanec, Galchenyuk or, indeed, Desharnais.
Maybe Prust should play with DD and Cole. Eller could be tried on a wing with Galchenyuk and Gallagher … but then you sacrifice Prust’s role as their protector.
Anyway, the season is young. And P.K. is waiting in the wings.