Montreal 0 Ottawa 2 (Bell Centre)
Just when you thought the roller-coaster part of the season was over, the Canadiens say, ‘Not yet!’ There is a dip or two left in the ride, Habs’ fans.
While we momentarily looked skyward in the standings and mused about playoff dates with Buffalo or New Jersey, fans will now be back to looking in the rear-view mirror at Boston and Atlanta. A measly one point collected from games against the cellar-dwelling Leafs, and the skidding Senators just doesn’t cut it at this time of year.
So, here are a few questions for Jacques Martin and the coaching staff to figure out. And soon.
- What happened to the team that controlled the neutral zone, created turnovers and aggressively forechecked?
- Why couldn’t the Canadiens routinely complete a 12 foot pass tonight?
- Why is Benoit Pouliot suddenly playing like he is wearing a Minnesota Wild jersey? (Pouliot was replaced on the Scott Gomez line by Sergei Kostitsyn in the third period.)
- How does the home team only tally six shots on goal in the first period, even when assisted by two power-plays, against an opponent who had lost five straight games?
- Where is the fourth line that dominated at times during the winning streak? Is it simply a matter of chemistry with Maxim Lapierre being back for two games after his suspension?
- How were the Senators able to break out on an odd-man rush almost every-time a Canadiens’ defenseman pinched in the offensive zone?
- What happened to the power-play that is supposed to be one of the best in the league? (Pointing to the absence of Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron is too easy. Cammalleri rarely scores power-play goals and Bergeron wasn’t getting shots to the net before he was injured.)
- Is penalty-killing failing the Habs too? (Toronto scored on their only power-play chance on Saturday and Ottawa scored with only 1:03 on the man advantage tonight.)
- When the Canadiens’ are close to playing with a full lineup, why does it seems that another injury is just waiting around the corner? (Travis Moen received close to 50 stitches after he he received a forehead laceration from the skate of Matt Cullen in the second period.)
- Why are the Bell Centre faithful doing their best impression of Air Canada Centre fans instead of motivating the Canadians when they come out flat? (Fine, that question isn’t for coach Martin but it needed to be asked too.)
When speaking about the Canadiens’ loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday, Josh Gorges said, “We came out mentally soft.”
The same comment could be used for tonight’s game but particularly about Gorges’ game. He was on the ice for both Ottawa goals and was caught out of position a number of times.
Brian Gionta with five shots on goal and Andrei Kostitsyn with four created most of the Canadiens’ scoring chances.
“(Elliott) played well, he made some big saves,” Gionta said. “We had some good opportunities where we could have got back into the game but it didn’t go in.”
Many people try to attach the team’s wins and losses to the goaltender. The statistic is often misleading. Goaltending wasn’t a major factor in the Canadiens’ recent six-game winning streak. Jaroslav Halak had his worst game of the season against Edmonton but the team still won.
Similarly tonight, the result wasn’t reflective of the goaltending. While he didn’t have much work in the first period, and made a couple of puckhandling gaffes, Halak played one of his best games in more than a month. He made some big saves and played well enough to win tonight. Halak’s teammates, on the other hand, earned the loss.
The Canadiens have now been blanked seven times this season, five of them at the Bell Centre. Of the shutouts at home, four of them have been against divisional foes.
The next game is in Buffalo on Wednesday night when the Canadiens face the Sabres.
Rocket’s three stars
1. Erik Karlsson
2. Brian Elliot
3. Brian Gionta
special mention: Daniel Alfredsson, Jaroslav Halak
Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.
(photo credit: Getty)