The Montreal Canadiens have always had a difficult time with the Ottawa Senators — especially in Ottawa. Last night saw a flip to the script as Montreal’s top line played like a top line with six points en route to a 4-1 win at Canadian Tire Centre. Montreal has now won consecutive games since the COVID pause.
Tomas Tatar had two assists while Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault had a goal and assist each. There is this quote.
“We’re missing our best goal-scorer,” Danault said of Tyler Toffoli, who is out with a lower-body injury. “But a good, cultured team always finds a way to win without a superstar player, if I can say that. We all stick to the system, game after game. Whoever is in, if we buy into the system, that’s how you win and that’s what we are doing right now.”
Again, Montreal played a pretty complete game.
Even strength dominance by possession…
The Montreal Canadiens, according to Natural Stats Trick, enjoyed an excellent night at even strength especially. Expected goals for were lopsided in the favor of Montreal by a score of 2.73 to 1.14. Scoring chances were pretty even but high-danger chances were 11-4 in favor of the Canadiens. Shots on goal were 35-21 Montreal at even strength.
Possession-wise (Corsi and Fenwick), Montreal was right around 60% the entire night against Ottawa. The top-six was a big reason why. However, the depth was able to chip in as well. Even Nick Suzuki had three high-danger scoring chances at 5 on 5. It is that balance that is needed on a constant basis.
The dominance in possession alludes to the adage the best defense is a good offense.
Giving Carey Price A Break…
Basically, Jake Allen was able to have an easy night. His shutout bid was broken last in the third period. He stopped 22 of 23 shots overall and only had to make a couple of timely saves. After the COVID pause, it was important to give Carey Price a break. Teams have now seen first-hand that starting goaltenders have fared poorly not initially but a little after their return. See MacKenzie Blackwood in New Jersey as a prime example. Teams cannot afford to overuse their goaltenders, especially with this compressed of a season — even more so now.
Montreal will be playing a lot over the next six weeks. The Canadiens play 23 times over this span. There are six back-to-backs, and most weeks, Montreal plays four times a week. This is why Allen started last night.
Balance and getting both goalies playing good hockey were a priority before this pause and Montreal seems to get it now.
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Can Montreal peek up in the standings?
As a result, Montreal is up by six points in the race for the final playoff spot in the North with four games in hand. Is it time to look up yet? That answer is yes. The Winnipeg Jets are just five points up in the standings and the Edmonton Oilers are only up by four. Montreal has four games in hand on both teams. It will not be easy because of the ultra-compressed schedule but the deficit is manageable.
The key for the Montreal Canadiens is again balance. It is something that will be preached a million times over the coming weeks. As it has been said before, the hardest part is coming for Montreal in their playoff chase. Are they ready for this? Now, we will find out.