The 5-2 loss was predictable. The Florida Panthers had a lineup that included most of their best stars and a lineup that included seven players with over 250 games NHL experience. The Canadiens countered with a rookie laden roster and only three with as much as 250 games in the league. Even so the Canadiens kept the game close until midway through the third period.
Let’s start with the good stuff.
Price played the game’s first 31:57. He stopped 20 of 22 shots. He had little chance on the two goals, both scored by Panthers right wing Evgenii Dadonov off close-in goalmouth passes, the second on a power play.
It was his saves that made the Bell Centre faithful sit up. There were three of them and especially his lateral movement leading to a glove save on Mike Hoffman during a Florida power play midway through the second period.
Claude Julien called Mike Reilly his best defenceman. He has stated in training camp that he wants his defence to involve itself more in the offence. He couldn’t have asked more than what Reilly gave him on the night. Reilly has always had the speed. His inconsistent nature through his first three part-time years in the league has been an issue. That includes the nineteen games he played after the Canadiens acquired him from Minnesota for a fifth round draft pick at last season’s trade deadline. Are we on the verge of a breakthrough?
Josh Brook, a Canadiens 2017 second round draft pick, will probably be going back to the junior Moose Jaw Warriors but he opened a few eyes in this game. Detroit castoff Xavier Ouellett also had a pretty steady night which included a team-leading four hits and five shot attempts including two on-goal.
The Canadiens signed Boston-organization free agent left wing Kenny Agostino on July first. He caught my eye in his first shift and he never quit. Playing most of the night with Nick Suzuki and Alexandre Grenier, he led the Canadiens with five shots on goal and was in the middle of the play in every one of his 19 shifts. Before we get too excited though, he had a similar camp with the Bruins last year and still wound up being sent to Providence.
Matthew Peca led the Canadiens with two points. His goal was a double-deflection fluke on a pass intending for Suzuki. He had a nice assist on a two-on-one with Nikita Scherbak late in the game. He was named the Canadiens game star.
Junior graduate Will Bitten’s speed was evident in the game. Suzuki had was credited with three shots on goal but I really didn’t notice him too much beyond the fact that, had Peca’s pass gone through to him he was in position to score his first goal.
Paul Byron was his usual self.
Jonathan Drouin was wearing an “A” for the game. Julien mentioned post game that he came into camp in much better shape and he looked comfortable back on left wing where he has always belonged. A couple of times during the game I thought he might have paid more attention to his back-checking but all things considered he had a pretty good night.
The penalty killers should get honourable mention for the shorthanded 5:22 they put in while the Canadiens were serving the Max Domi match penalty. The Canadiens team speed was evident.
That was an ugly bit of business involving Domi. For no apparent reason he sucker-punched concussion-prone Aaron Ekblad and was legitimately assessed a match penalty. A bloodied Ekblad left the game and was put under concussion protocol the rest of the night. The league may have more to say about this one. UPDATE – The league has suspended Domi for the remaining five games of the Canadiens pre-season schedule.
Based on the way he finished last season with the Canadiens Nikita Scherbak appeared sure to be part of the season opener. Scherbak had notoriously bad training camps the last two years and, despite his goal, if he plays the rest of camp the way he played in this game, he is destined for Laval again.
MOVING ON –
The Canadiens will travel to Quebec City for their third exhibition game and then return home for the Ottawa Senators Saturday night.