PRE-SEASON Game 4: Montreal 2 Ottawa 3 (Bell Centre)
MONTREAL, QC. — Scott Gomez was the target for criticism by fans last season, mostly deserved, for a dreadful performance. Andre Kostitsyn is a perennial target for the media, and that often has very little to do with his play on the ice. But both have provided cover for Mike Cammalleri, who despite a sub-par year in 2010-11 emerged relatively unscathed.
Cammalleri scored just 19 goals last season, which ranked him fourth on the Canadiens behind Brian Gionta, Tomas Plekanec and Kostitsyn. Granted he missed 15 games due to injury, but his goal scoring was down substantially from when he potted 39 for the Calgary Flames in 2008-’09.
Cammalleri was content to let his linemates collect the puck while he set-up in the circle for a one-timer, a routine that became far too predictable. In addition, Cammalleri earned the nickname “Mr. High and Wide” last season, a reflection of his erratic shooting. It’s fair to say that if the Canadiens are to improve their 5-on-5 scoring this season, it will be up to Cammalleri, in large measure, to be the sniper that other teams fear.
On Saturday night, Cammalleri sparked the Montreal offense with two goals in a 2:49 span of the second frame bringing the Bell Centre to life after a first period snoozefest. On the second goal, Cammalleri capitalized on a breakaway set-up by Aaron Palushaj. It was the first Canadiens lead of the pre-season.
Cammalleri had seven shots on goal and was able to elevate the play of his two linemates, Palushaj and Gabriel Dumont. For Palushaj, his two-assist performance came just in the nick of time resurrecting his bid to remain with the big club when the season starts on October 6. He still remains behind Andreas Engqvist but has at least made it a horserace — Michael Blunden and Brock Trotter are also in the mix according to coach Jacques Martin.
“[Palushaj] had his best game of the pre-season by far. He worked hard on the puck, he used his speed.” — Jacques Martin
It was a mixed night for Dumont who received a charitable third-star from the folks at RDS despite some weak play in his own zone. Trotter didn’t get a shot on goal and had a minus-one rating despite playing with Plekanec and Gionta.
Saturday’s game was a chance for Olivier Archambault to grab a healthy chunk of the spotlight. The Val d’Or left winger was taken in the fourth round of June’s NHL Entry Draft. Tonight he showed skill, grit and deceptive quickness.
(For a profile of any of the Canadiens newcomers, select the “Prospects” tab from the main page, and look for our popular “Who’s this Guy?” series.)
The picture was far less rosy on the defensive side of the ledger. Nathan Beaulieu came crashing back to earth injecting some reality into the discussion about whether he was capable of staying with the Canadiens. It was a silly notion to begin with but was effectively silenced after Beaulieu committed turnovers, was too soft with his clearing passes and let emotions cloud his judgement leading to Chris Neil‘s first goal.
Mark Mitera had two assists tonight which masked his performance in his own end. Mitera has struggled mightily so far in camp. He is known as a bruising, shutdown defenseman but is being limited by poor decision-making and some shoddy passing skills to clear the puck out of the zone.
The new and improved Jaroslav Spacek showed he still lacks footspeed as Nikita Filatov was able to go around him to set-up Neil for the winning goal by Ottawa. Jeff Woywitka plays far too timid for a big man rarely winning puck battles. Josh Gorges was the only bright spot on the night playing 22:08 and showing no ill-effects from his off-season surgery.
Carey Price played the full game and looks ready for the start of the season. Price made some great saves particularly after the Canadiens took a two-goal lead and sat back in a defensive shell.
As we keep reminding ourselves, it is only pre-season but with only four tune-up games left it’s time for the Canadiens to start building good habits towards the start of the season. Allowing goals in the last 30 seconds of periods two and three was not a good sign. We also haven’t seen any evidence that the Habs will use their speed to be stronger on the forecheck to improve their even strength scoring this season.
The Canadiens head to Halifax to take on the Boston Bruins on Sunday night at the Metro Centre.
All Habs game stars
1. Mike Cammalleri
2. Aaron Palushaj
3. Olivier Archambault
Category: Game review