The Canadiens were checkmated by a Bishop.
The Ottawa goaltender used his 6′-7″ frame to block most of the net on the 45 shots he faced. And Ben Bishop got some help from his goalposts.
The Canadiens played well enough to win and were stymied by a hot goalie.
End of story.
But of course it won’t be.
Carey Price’s critics – confined, for most of the season to date, to the dark, damp, sewer-like sections of the Comments section – will be in full voice blasting the Canadiens’ goaltender for his week glove side on Dave Dziurzynski’s goal and Price’s ineptitude in allowing two Senators to beat him in the Shootout.
The phenomenon had Patrick Roy chuckling during L’Antichambre.
“I can’t believe the negativity,” St. Patrick said, marvelling that media members were asking Michel Therrien about Price’s performance after the Canadiens had dominated Ottawa in its own building for 65 minutes.
So none of that negativity here, except to acknowledge out that Price was not the better goaltender at Scotiabank Place Monday night … although he did make 23 saves and lowered his GAA to 1.90.
I should also mention that P.K. Subban was not the Canadiens’ best defenceman in Ottawa and had less even-strength ice time than any of his five confreres. He also took a late-game penalty, on a Canadiens’ power play, that carried over into Overtime, giving Ottawa a dangerous 4-on-3 power play.
In an unusually cerebral edition of L’Antichambre – Roy elevates the tone almost as much as P.J. Stock diminishes it – the goaltending immortal and his fellow panelists – Carbo, Vincent Damphousse and Gaston Therrien – suggested P.K.’s difficult evening was evidence of the trouble he’s had adjusting to a system that works.
Controlling gaps at their blueline, hunting in packs in their zone with forwards tracking back tirelessly (in contrast, Patrick Roy said, to what we saw from Scott Gomez last season), the Canadiens have worked hard on back pressure and virtually eliminated odd-man rushes. Swarming the puck along the boards, with another forward monitoring the slot for late-coming attackers, also has reduced those wide-open looks that blueline blasters have enjoyed against Price in recent seasons.
The Canadiens have bought into the way Michel Therrien wants them to play … especially in the first period. They began the game by outshooting the home team 12-5 – the eighth consecutive game in which the Canadiens have held an opponent under 10 shots in the opening period. This suggests a high degree of preparedness and a commitment to the game plan – both of which are a tribute to Therrien and his staff.
For the first time in many seasons, the Canadiens have three lines who can score. This is particularly valuable on the road – where the Canadiens play six of their next seven games – because the home team coach, with last change, can’t focus on shutting down one scoring line, as was the case matching defensive forwards against David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty last season.
DD went 11-5 on faceoffs against Ottawa. After 21 shots on goal in his first 18 games, DD had five against Ottawa. His new winger, Brendan Gallagher, was in Bishop’s face all night …. or at least looking up at the Ottawa goaltender. Gallagher and Pacioretty each had four SoG.
Brandon Prust, with four hits and another Energizer Bunny game, has ably filled in for Rene Bourque on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
Lars Eller, Erik Cole and Alex Galchenyuk were on for the Ottawa goal. But Eller was a red-hot 12-5 on draws, Cole had four SoG and Galchenyuk worked his way into a couple promising positions, only to be foiled by Bishop.
Chris Neil had EIGHT hits but was in the penalty box when Andrei Markov scored. The Neil line was the only one to trouble the Canadiens unduly.
Your heroes had their highest shot total of the season. The Canadiens deserved to win in Ottawa, but Bishop was otherworldly and got help from the ironwork.
It’s on to Toronto. If the Canadiens get another 45 shots Wednesday and Price is on his game, the boys may finally get their first win on Ontario ice this season.