MONTREAL, QC. — On their second shot on goal, the Ottawa Senators took a 1-to-0 lead early in the first period. Deja vu? Fortunately, Alex Auld was spared the wrath of the Bell Centre fans. He wears number 35 on his sweater, not 31.
A closer look at the play revealed breakdowns on defense. Alex Henry was in no-man’s land, not pressuring the puck carrier, Peter Regin, nor putting himself in good position to eliminate the pass. P.K. Subban was woefully out of position having left his man to be in the ear hole of Henry.
Ottawa’s Mike Fisher was all alone in the slot and buried a wrister past the Canadiens backup.
Like Auld, Henry didn’t hear any boos for his mistake. And what about Subban? PK wasn’t booed. It’s safe to say that PK will never be booed.
So, it’s clear that the anger venting from the cheap seats at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night had nothing to do with performance. It was personal. It came from a group of morons who don’t deserve the label of fans nor a spotlight for their hate.
Subban was blunt in assessing his own play saying, “I was pretty inconsistent. After you make a couple of mistakes, obviously you get hard on yourself. [The pre-season] is just about getting back in game shape.”
Very true. So no need to become hysterical over one shift, one mistake, or one game.
For Subban, his play ranged from reckless to brilliant. He was allowed to work through his mistakes without verbal attack and went on to score the Canadiens first goal.
As Subban said, “I thought that I worked hard to battle back.” Indeed.
Dustin Boyd was another Habs player who got off to a rough start. By the end of the second period, he was minus-2 and looked to be struggling. A strong third period and being in the right place at the right time to deflect a bounding point shot past Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire rescued his game.
Without TV-broadcast coverage, many Habs fans were following the game via Twitter. Some would say that the most egregious error of the night came from Francois Gagnon of La Presse who tweeted to his followers that the Canadiens had a 4-to-2 lead. Unfortunately, it was during the second period when the score was 3-to-2.
It’s the pre-season for the mainstream media (MSM), too. They deserve a little slack as they get into regular season form. But Gagnon and others should consider that before they toss daggers after an exhibition game.
Andrei Kostitsyn was a frequent target of the MSM last season. In this game, he showed that he can be a dominant player on the ice. He was physical, protected the puck and wristed a laser for a goal. It was a solid effort particularly as he was playing with AHL-caliber linemates.
Lars Eller’s contribution won’t be found in the scoresheet. But the rookie had an excellent game winning puck battles, feeding linemates Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. One sequence had Fisher bouncing off Eller twice and failing to dislodge the puck as the young Danish forward drove to the net with determination.
Eller’s play drew special praise from Coach Jacques Martin. “It was the first opportunity I had to see him play,” Martin said. “I like his speed, I like his quickness, he wants the puck. I thought he was on a lot of loose pucks. He went to the net, went into the traffic. So, he showed a lot of good things.”
Robert Mayer has clearly been the best young goalie in camp. Remember the outcry from certain quarters when Cedrick Desjardins was traded? Mayer’s play is proving that the right hockey decision was made.
Mayer made 18 saves on 19 shots playing the last half of the game He is an aggressive goaltender (which can be a blessing and a curse) with an excellent glove hand. Puckhandling is a shortcoming which almost cost him against the Senators.
“All I had to do is have no rebounds and I just had to make myself look big, and that’s what I was focusing on the whole game,” said Mayer. “I think it went pretty good.”
Plus and minus:
▲ Ryan White led the team in hits and had an assist. He fought Eric Gryba when the Ottawa defensemen targeted Max Pacioretty with a head shot.
▲ David Desharnais made an excellent pass to set up Mathieu Darche’s power-play goal. It was the perfect game for Desharnais with the Senators totaling only 16 hits all night.
▲ Max Pacioretty played just over nine minutes with significant time in the dressing room due to injury. When on the ice he was effective and tallied four shots on goal.
▲ Ryan O’Byrne was rewarded for his hard work by wearing an Assistant Captain ‘A’ on his sweater. He played a simple game and was solid in just under 20 minutes of play.
▼ Alex Henry had an assist but struggled and found himself out of position for much of the game.
▼ For a player with good size, Andreas Engqvist continues to be invisible with unremarkable play.
▼ Ian Schultz proved to be fearless after fighting Cody Bass but his lack of conditioning didn’t allow him to be as effective as he should be.
The Canadiens have been employing a power-play scheme with four players below the hash marks and only one man back at the point. At times, the power-play has looked disorganized but has limited success so far with a goal in each of the first two pre-season games.
We saw this alignment at the 2009 World Junior Championships in Ottawa with Team Canada directed by Head coach Pat Quinn. In a game against Kazakhstan, Team Canada scored eight goals on the power play, setting a new single-game Canadian record.
P.K. Subban was a member of the 2009 gold-medal junior team. Former Hamilton Bulldogs bench boss, Guy Boucher was Quinn’s assistant in charge of the power-play.
Canadiens coach Martin confirmed that the team was evaluating the system during the pre-season.
The Canadiens and Senators meet again on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
All Habs game stars:
1. Andrei Kostitsyn
2. Lars Eller
3. Robert Mayer
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Guillaume Latendresse spoke with Marc Antoine Godin of La Presse on Carey Price. Latendresse said, “I find it so sad. [Booing Price] dirties the image of Canadiens fans.”
Read the rest of the story here (French).