Face it, with the Canadiens it’s always about Carey Price.
When Price is in control of his game, the Canadiens have a good chance of winning. When he’s not we get things like eight game losing streaks.
Thanks to Price and only to Price, the latest losing streak ended with Saturday night’s 2-1 overtime victory over the Senators in Ottawa.
Coming off the loss to Edmonton Price admitted he was “beyond frustrated” at the way he was playing. He channeled that frustration against the Senators.
Price’s performance in this game was subtle. He faced 42 shots but seldom had to come up with anything we could categorize as spectacular. He did most of his really good work in the second period when the Senators outshot the Canadiens 16-2.
It’s always a sign that Price is on his game by the efficiency in which he runs his goal crease. In Ottawa his movement was sharp, his positioning dead-on and square to the shooter, his demeanor calm. The goal he gave up was a fluky affair; sliding through Marco Scandella’s legs off the skate of Michael Peca. He was perfect on the other 41 he faced.
It’s heartening to see Price return to form, even if it’s for a game or two. Unfortunately the only impact it will have is where the Canadiens will wind up in the draft lottery.
Shots on goal has become a diminished NHL statistic. This game is one of those games where the shots statistics failed to tell the story of the game and points up the devalued status of the shots-on-goal statistic.
The Senators outshot the Canadiens 40-17 in regulation time but the underlying statistics showed that the Canadiens and Senators played nearly a 50-50 game in terms of puck possession and while Carey Price had to deal with six high-danger shooting attempts, at the other end of the seventeen regulation shots Marcus Hogberg faced, eleven were considered ‘dangerous’. Of course the end result is how many goals are scored and the Canadiens haven’t been very good in that department recently.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s career is nearing it’s end but apparently he has determined that he is not going to conclude it without a fight. Kovalchuk’s first goal with the Canadiens was the overtime game-winner. The 438th goal of his 901 game career came with 52 seconds remaining in the extra period and two minutes after he was stopped on another overtime breakaway attempt. But his game was more than the overtime. With Gallagher re-experiencing his concussion issue, Kovalchuk was moved back up to the Danault line. There were a couple of examples of Kovalchuk’s first rate play making including a pass that sent Phillip Danault in alone in the first period. He also led the team with four shots on goal. Kovalchuk has four points in four games with the Canadiens (1g, 3a).
I’m trying to remember the last time the Canadiens produced a rookie forward that did the things that Nick Suzuki is doing at the age of twenty. His power play goal was a major league forty foot wrister. He also had his nightly quota of slick passing plays and there was a moment in time when Jesperi Kotkaniemi found himself on the ice with Suzuki and Artturi Lehkonen which produced some three-way magic. Have we arrived at a point in the season where Kotkaniemi’s progress would be better served in the presence of more skilled line mates.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Shea Weber equaled Carey Price’s frustration level after the loss to Edmonton. He took it out on the Senators. He delivered a crushing check on Filip Chlapik in the first period and in a rare overtime on-ice appearance he blasted Jean-Gabriel Pageau. In Ben Chiarot’s absence, Weber was paired with Victor Mete most of the night. He logged 26:37. Only Jeff Petry put in more at 27:53.
….A sign of pressure of a long losing streak? In regulation time the Canadiens attempted 53 shots. Only 17 were handled by Hogberg. The completely missed the target 21 times and another 15 were blocked. Tomas Tatar missed on four of his five shot attempts.
….Once again Tatar frustrated his coaches by collecting another of those offensive zone penalties. This one came in the third period as the Senators were trying to mount their comeback.
….As usual Phillip Danault took care of the lion’s share of the faceoffs, taking 26 of 46. He won 65% (17 of 26). As a team the Canadiens won 46%.
….The Canadiens penalty killers were on the ice for six of the game’s final fourteen minutes successfully killing penalties to Mete, Tatar and Scandella.
….For the second game in a row Nate Thompson had a breakaway chance to score a definitive breakaway goal. Against Detroit he hit the post after beating the goaltender. In Ottawa, shorthanded it missed an open side of the Ottawa net completely. A goal there would have given the Canadiens a 2-1 lead with less than three minutes remaining in regulation time. Thompson has failed to register a point in his last 16 games.
….And I have to say something about Dale Weise. In the old days he would have been dubbed an “honest player”. That describes a one who never takes a short cut. Another five hits in this game. Twelve in the four games he’s played while logging between seven and 9 minutes a game. When the injury list shortens he’ll be going back to Laval. The talent may be limited. The heart is unquestioned.
….The wins still leaves the Canadiens in thirteenth place in the Eastern Conference and 25th in the league.
….In order to reach the estimated 95 points for an Eastern Conference team to reach the playoffs they need to pile up 50 points in their remaining 36 games. Roughly, that means going 25-11-0.
The Canadiens will host the Calgary Flames Monday night at the Bell Centre followed by back-to-back games with Chicago at home and in Philadelphia Wednesday and Thursday. They’ll be home to Vegas next Saturday in the final game before the All-Star break.