FIVE QUICK THOUGHTS
-When the Ottawa Senators are struggling, it seems like transition defence is a huge issue. And actually, so is defending as a five man unit in their own end of the rink. Actually, it’s defence in all its forms. Or lack thereof, I suppose.? This game was mostly even until about the half way point but a series of glaring defensive breakdowns in the last eight minutes of the period allowed Montreal to basically takeover the game.? Things have had a way of snowballing on the road this year and that’s exactly what happened in the back half of the middle frame.? This game was basically decided thanks to a little under four minutes of sloppy play.
-I haven’t watched a lot of Montreal this year because well, why would I? But it’s pretty clear that they are an entirely different team than last year.? Far more aggressive than I remember and with speed throughout their line up.? It’s tough to tell the difference between their 8 or 9 forwards under 5’8 but they sure are effective when given as much time and space as they had last night. Man oh man, do they ever have some punchable faces on that team though.? Not sure which Senator Max Domi was talking to on the bench in the third period but it’s an absolute miracle that the Ottawa guy (maybe Smith?) didn’t get sucker punch afterwards.? Especially considering the way he went after Drake Batherson in the first. Seriously though, someone needs to hit that guy, and hard, on Thursday night.
-The Montreal experience was in full effect last night. The first period alone was an absolute clinic in how not to call an NHL hockey game. Starts with Drake Batherson’s nothing hit and Max Domi dropping his gloves and throwing punches only to get a roughing penalty.? The kneeing call on Mark Stone would have been a fine call if you know, he actually made any contact with the knee. Later in the period they managed to even things up after another dreadful slashing call on Brady Tkachuk. Seriously, have a look at this one. Oh and the referee basically picked Ryan Dzingel out of the play on the Habs opening goal. Montreal typical, indeed. Officiating had nothing to do with the end result in this one but it was still garbage.
-You know, it’s a damn shame half the games in an NHL season are played on the road because it’s getting to the point where it’s hard to believe I’m actually watching the same collection of hockey players as have been suiting up for games at the Canadian Tire Centre.? After convincing wins over the Rangers and Sharks, a lot of those same ol’ road habits crept into Ottawa’s game last night.? On home ice, they dictate the pace of the game. They are aggressive and they attack at every opportunity. On the road, it feels a little bit like they are hoping for the other team to make a mistake.? And that careful approach usually leads to mistakes of their own.? The Senators play their next three on home ice.
-With the game out of reach in the third period and Ryan Dzingel in the box for fighting, Guy Boucher did some serious juggling of the forward combinations. Zack Smith found himself playing the left side on a line with Mark Stone and Matt Duchene. And while it wasn’t exactly prime time minutes, the trio actually looked okay together including connecting quickly on Ottawa’s second goal. That left a second line of Brady Tkachuk, Colin White and Drake Batherson.? The Senators have kept Stone and Duchene on separate lines this year and it has allowed them to spread out the offence a little bit but it would be fun to see what they could do together. Especially with someone like Brady Tkachuk on the left side. Doesn’t leave much for the other three lines unfortunately.