With the return of centre Shane Pinto, the Ottawa Senators are improving their play recently. Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens are going through their worst stretch of the season.
The Canadiens were lifeless on Tuesday night as they fell 4-1 to Ottawa.
It’s generous to claim anyone was a horse in this one.
Joshua Roy made a nice dangle in the second period to set up Sean Monahan, who whiffed on his chance. Jayden Struble was solid and steady as per usual as he continues to show he is an NHLer. C0le Caufield had a couple of good looks but he was robbed. Jonathan Kovacevic scored the only Montreal goal on a screened point shot.
Other than that, the best horse was the full house at the Bell Centre who showed the patience to not boo the club mercilessly. There were a handful of boos, but, for the most part, this city understands that this is a rebuild, and it’s going to take some time.
Boos don’t help the organization feel like time will be given, and it needs to be. Decisions must be made for the long-term growth of the franchise, not quick and rash choices to pacify restlessness. Kudos to the fans then for their patience.
After allowing six against the Senators last week in Ottawa, and then nine against the Bruins in Boston, the head coach said they would try to tighten up defensively after that humbling experience.
It didn’t work out as planned. The Canadiens allowed two goals on six shots to start the game. Jake Allen with a rare start and he was rusty early. The second goal not his fault, but the first he would certainly like a huge rebound back.
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The game got so bad that Head Coach Martin St. Louis broke up the top line of Nick Suzuki with Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky. The line has lost its lustre after a strong start. They hovered at a 61 Goals Expected share for some time. Their 20 share against Ottawa dropped their overall Goals Expected share to 52. That’s the 65th ranked line in the league which is not a good number when essentially there are only 128 lines. It explains well the change to Josh Anderson for the third period replacing Slafkovsky.
Montreal continues to suffer against weaker clubs as Ottawa made it look easy, and nothing has been easy for that team this season. The Canadiens are going through a bad patch, and a long break can’t come soon enough.
Patrick Roy’s Islanders visit on Thursday, then the Canadiens are in Pittsburgh Saturday, then a break all the way to Feb. 6th — it’s needed. The club has no jump at all. It’s the worst that they have looked all season long.
Every team goes through some patch of mid-season blahs, but the good teams can rely on game-breakers who have enough talent to keep the victories coming. Not the Canadiens, who if they don’t have 100 per cent effort and a full tank, will not come away with results.
GM Kent Hughes likely didn’t love that it was a poor night. There were scouts from 15 different clubs at the game. The offers for Montreal’s players surely didn’t get better off of this one. Not to worry, as there are 16 more Montreal games to evaluate before the March 8th trading deadline.
The Canadiens made a number of roster changes since their last contest. Tanner Pearson was re-activated after injury, meaning a roster spot had to be cleared. General Manager Kent Hughes sent Mitchell Stephens to the waiver wire hoping that he would not be claimed.
Stephens was not picked up by another club looking for some centre depth, so he was sent back down to Laval to continue his strong season with the Rocket. It is interesting to note that management preferred that roster move over the easy one of simply sending Joshua Roy back down.
Roy does not have to clear waivers due to his lack of years of service. It is clear that Hughes wants to get a longer look at Roy who has played very well at the NHL level in his short stint.
A move was also made on the blue line, where Justin Barron was sent down to Laval. This was an easy move, and Barron doesn’t have to clear waivers, either. Again, the news is more who was not sent down as Jayden Struble has earned a longer look at the NHL level due to handling the defensive side of the puck so effortlessly in his two-month stay in Montreal.
To complete the roster moves, Arber Xhekaj finished his stint in Laval. He was outstanding in the American Hockey League, forming one of the best partnerships in the league with Logan Mailloux. In fact, the club was in the doldrums, outside of the playoffs as one of the worst teams in the league. However, after Xhekaj’s arrival, the club went on a tear moving up the standings. The Rocket will miss him.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after each Canadiens game.
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