You really have to give it to the Ottawa Senators. They're now 5-1-0 since Erik Karlsson went down, and they've tallied all 5 of those wins in a row. They aren't nearly as talented a team as they were to start the year, but they keep finding ways to win.
Did they deserve it last night? No. I popped into Silver Seven last night and they were laughing at how ridiculous it was that they got two points, but you couldn't help but be a little happy for them. The Senators have been dealt a terrible hand this season, and it's pretty cool that they've been able to remain so strong thus far.
The game itself was an onslaught. The Montreal Canadiens carried 66% of all Fenwick events when the score was tied, outshooting the Senators 33-17. Overall at even strength, the Fenwick numbers were 44-27 in favour of the Habs, 62% of all Fenwick events.
The game may have been the best game the Canadiens have played this year, which is both hilarious and a little depressing since they came away without two points.
Why all of a sudden are the Habs so strong? I think a big part of it is a balanced top 9 forward group. All three lines can dictate possession and create scoring chances. They also have a 4th line that can play 10+ minutes. They don't generate much scoring, but they waste time that the other team could spend getting chances.
The rookies, now on separate lines, each played at least 16 minutes, a career high for both players in the NHL. That those two got the most time they've seen all season on the road, against a divisional opponent, says a lot about what coach Michel Therrien thinks of them.
Brendan Gallagher had 4 shots, and 6 attempts overall, something we're starting to get used to from him. He and David Desharnais seem to have developed instant chemistry, which allows Erik Cole to be the veteran presence with Eller and Galchenyuk.
Alex Galchenyuk, for his part, fired 2 shots on net, 5 attempts in total. His confidence with the puck is growing every game, and he seems to be shooting a lot more often, which is great news, he has a wicked shot.
Eller had yet another strong night on faceoffs, going 12-5 against the Sens and bringing his season total to 51.5%. Only Ryan White has a better faceoff percentage on the season among the Habs' centers, and Eller has taken nearly double the draws.
The Canadiens' only goal came from Andrei Markov, who broke a 14 game goalless drought with the PP marker. Markov has yet to produce a single point at even strength, which seems absurdly unlucky to my eye, but then again, he's playing tougher minutes than he should be. Markov continued his heavy workload with over 25 minutes of ice time to lead the team.
Which defenseman saw the least amount of ice at even strength? None other than P.K. Subban. I don't get it, no one really does, but until the Canadiens begin losing more often, I don't think we're going to see a change.
As it stands, Subban is blitzing the competition at even strength to the tune of a team leading 63.6% Fenwick when the score is close, a ridiculous amount of dominance for a player starting just 45% of his shifts in the offensive zone. It's going to be really interesting to see what Subban can do against top competition when Therrien decides he's a good enough person to get more ice time.
The least any Hab played last night was 11:31, and that was Travis Moen. The way that Therrien is able to roll his lines and really, his defense pairings, is going to seriously pay off in this shortened season. I have a feeling this team is going to be fresher later in the season than most teams.
Three scoring lines, one superb checking line, depth feels good. And the Habs were without a top six forward tonight with Rene Bourque still sick. How good is this team?
For reaction from the winning side, check out Silver Seven.