If the Canadiens play like that at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night …
Well, it just doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?
On the other hand, there’s a pretty good chance Carey Price will get the start against the Leafs.
So there’s hope for another crucial divisional win.
But give Phil Kessel those kinds of scoring chances …
Again, though, we can postpone that nightmare for a couple days.
For 40 minutes in Ottawa, the Canadiens looked like a team headed for a downward, Acapulco cliff dive in the Eastern Conference standings.
They were awful. Worst I’ve seen them play this season. And in view of some recent stinkeroos, that’s saying something.
But Price – playing what more than a few pundits on Twitter called the best game of his NHL career – kept it close.
Then Tomas Plekanec’s fluke goal off Jared Cowen’s skate. And Erik Karlsson’s turnover in Overtime and P.K. Subban’s dribbler through Craig Anderson’s legs.
Two points, and on to Toronto – where a fair bit of baggage will be sliding down the carousel at Pearson late Thursday night.
The gang on L’Antichambre began the telecast by listing Canadiens who could hold their heads high:
The goaltender, of course. It wasn’t just the 44 shots Price faced. Tampa Bay put 45 on him in a 2-1 Shootout loss at the Bell Centre in November. Carolina had 42 in winning 5-4 in OT on New Year’s Eve.
But neither the Lightning nor Hurricanes had the quality of shots Price faced at the Canadian Tire Centre. By conservative estimate, the Senators had 20 gilt-edged scoring chances.
Through the first two periods, the Senators skated through the Canadiens’ D like a hot knife through … I’d better go with “butter” because a scatological reference would be inappropriate in a family blog.
There was poor gap control. The Canadiens gave up the blueline too easily. Unhindered by anything resembling physical resistance, the Senators owned the slot and fired at will.
Price was heroic. He had no chance on the four Ottawa goals.
The list of Canadiens who didn’t totally suck also included:
• P.K. Subban, who played 27:25, scored the winner and had three shots on goal, plus five that were blocked.
• Tomas Plekanec, who scored twice, won 13 of 22 draws, finished plus-2 and played half the game on a sore knee after blocking a shot.
• Max Pacioretty, whose 21st goal was a honey of a wrist shot.
• Brendan Gallagher, who had EIGHT of the Canadiens 23 shots and, as always, played his heart out, even through the worst of Ottawa’s domination. As bad as it got, the DD line played a few shifts that reminded fans the Montreal Canadiens are an NHL hockey team.
Brian Gionta was OK. Alexei Emelin had seven hits. Lars Eller did not look out of place playing left wing with Pleks and Gionta.
And the special teams were perfect, producing a shorthanded goal (third of the year, 15th career) for Plekanec and a long-overdue power play snipe by Pacioretty.
That’s about it for the highlight reel.
Shall we list the negatives?
• Brandon Prust was on for two Ottawa goals.
• Douglas Murray and Raphael Diaz do not belong in the defence corps of a playoff team.
• Daniel Brière played 10:48, had one shot attempt that missed the net and went 0-4 on draws. Even the Antichambre guys are coming to the painful realization that Brière is washed up.
• Rene Bourque had ZERO shot attempts. He has not been on a scoresheet since returning from injury on Dec. 17. Bourque has played 36 games this season and, to steal a Ray Ferraro quip I heard on Mitch Melnick’s show, he has one more assist than I do.
A win is a win.
The two points will be valuable in April.
Three Olympians – Price, Subban and Plekanec – came to play in Ottawa.
But something ails this team, peeps. The euphoria we all felt Saturday night after that beautifully played win over Chicago began to fade during the loss to New Jersey; and those first two periods in Ottawa were shock therapy for anyone clinging to the notion that this is anything approaching an elite NHL team.
Is it Michel Therrien’s fault?
Hey, he’s no Scotty Bowman. And evidence building up since the playoffs last spring suggests Therrien is no Paul MacLean.
Is his system stifling creative players?
Are Therrien’s obsessive line changes counter-productive?
Has the room tuned him out?
And what about his boss?
Is it the considered judgment of Marc Bergevin that no one in Hamilton is better than Murray, Diaz, Bouillon, Bourque or Brière?
Too negative after a W?
Hey, what’s winning without whining?
On to TO.