The Canadiens have seen this before. What was in fact a warm May evening bore stark resemblance to a cold, dark, Saturday night in February. On that occasion, the Canadiens found themselves down early on a couple of passable Maple Leaf goals. Facing a deficit, and unable to assert themselves physically, the Canadiens turned to Bruins-calibre goonery, starting fights with stick-work, and then failing to make good when their challenges were accepted.
The organization embarrassed itself that evening, and it was hard to be a Habs fan. Some pundits found cause to anoint the game a shining example of the Habs' flawed business model, and suggested that their players were no more than trade chips, and their season over. Of course, anyone who adopted such a line of thinking would have quickly seen the error of their ways. The Canadiens quickly brushed off that TML-induced pounding, and went on an astounding run in which they could not be defeated in regulation time. The run lasted almost a quarter of the season, and buoyed them to the second place position where they would eventually finish.
What ever inspired their greatest run of success this season, the Canadiens will need to rekindle it. Sunday night, like the circus under the Bell Centre big top, made it hurt to cheer for the Habs. The game, obviously well-in-hand with about eleven minutes to play in the third, was prolonged by ridiculous attempts by the Canadiens to injure and intimidate the Senators. When their antics culminated in a line brawl, the Canadiens were shown up by the Senators' toughest players. With a two-day layoff after the aforementioned Toronto game, the Canadiens were able to initiate a spectacular turn-around. They'll need to do the same here, but in half the time.
A cursory glance at the shot counts from Sunday would not seem to predict a blowout. The Canadiens had their chances in the first and second periods, and while the Senators seemed to carry the run of the play, the Canadiens hung with them on the back of more solid play from Carey Price. A Brian Gionta goal on a breakaway early in the third period would have pulled the Canadiens within one, and could have completely changed the dynamic of the game. Instead, the bounces went the other way, and what should have been a harmless Jean-Gabriel Pageau wrister put the game out of hand.
Of course, the Canadiens will need to rely on more than luck if they wish for better results. In Game Two, the Canadiens were able to dominate the Senators, and despite a depleted line-up, their hard forecheck and constant skating allowed them to suffocate Ottawa's efforts. This team-wide commitment did not carry over to Game Three, unfortunately, and Michel Therrien is likely working to re-establish it as we speak.
End-of-game antics aside, there were a number of Canadiens who looked like passengers for much of the game, and the Canadiens will need more than that if they wish to tie up the series. Even some players who were spectacular in Montreal were poor last night. For example, Alex Galchenyuk had easily his worst game of the series, and his ineffective play was perhaps best exemplified as he meekly traipsed around the ice, appearing exhausted during a second period attempt to shadow the Senators in the defensive zone. Given the track record Galchenyuk has established, both in his strong play toward the end of the year and in his good work in the series' first two games, we should see a much stronger showing this evening.
The Canadiens will, of course, return to their incumbent in the crease. Taking his entire body of work into consideration, Price has been merely average for the series. He'll need to build on the four or five periods of good work he demonstrated between Games Two and Three. The Senators will run with Craig Anderson, and while he has held the Canadiens to two one-goal games now, the feeling that he absolutely cannot be beaten when challenged seems to have dissipated following the Canadiens Game Two efforts.
Line-ups will be similar to Game Three, with only the absences of Brian Gionta and Ryan White to report. Both have been labelled with upper-body injuries, and will be replaced by Jeff Halpern and Gabriel Dumont this evening. Three of the ringleaders from Game Three have avoided supplemental discipline, as some had speculated that any of P.K Subban, Josh Gorges, and Rene Bourque could have been suspended for their myriad infractions. Meanwhile, Eric Gryba's two-gamer for the Lars Eller headshot is complete. Whether he climbs onto the Senators sixth defenseman carousel remains to be seen.
As always, the Senators perspective is available at Silver Seven Sens.
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