Remember the first five preseason games? The ones that were a bit messy, but mostly fun? That was the pleasant surprise of the 2014-15 preseason, even more so than the emergence of Nathan Beaulieu, Jiri Sekac, and Christian Thomas. Usually preseason is terrible hockey, full of goons trying to force their way into the NHL with fights and dirty hits.
Well, every bit of that garbage that the Canadiens had managed to avoid, the Ottawa Senators brought in spades on Friday night. Even ignoring the multiple hits from behind, the fact that Chris Neil had the gall to jump Max Pacioretty, after he's been refusing to fight Brandon Prust for the better part of two seasons, is astounding.
To fan the flames, talentless thug Mark Borowiecki decided to fight P.K. Subban, and when the fight was seemingly over with him hiding behind a ref, he hopped out and tried to sucker punch Subban. Also noteworthy in that little brawl; Eric Gryba going after Desharnais. Tough guy.
Sadly, this is what the rivalry between these two teams has become. The Canadiens have taken steps to get better, and in answer, the Senators have taken steps to injure them. It seems like every game between these two has some sort of drama.
But also, there was a game played, and it was a weird one.
To put it mildly, the Canadiens absolutely dominated the Senators at even strength, outshooting them 18-9, but got their tails kicked in on special teams, allowing three goals on a whopping 17 shots. The Canadiens were given just as many opportunities on the powerplay, but could only connect for one goal on six shots, as they struggled gain the zone with possession, or more accurately, dumped it in constantly. On most nights, you'd take dominance at even strength over special teams, but preferably the gap in special teams shouldn't be quite that bad.
There were positives to the game as well, with Max Pacioretty working himself into three breakaways,one ending in a snipe job on Robin Lehner, along with Alex Galchenyuk continuing to look like a dominating offensive force.
Most positive of all though, was a rebound performance by Jarred Tinordi, who seems to be rewarding the coaching staff's continual reliance on him in preseason, as he continues to get slightly better at cutting out the mistakes, and pushing the play forward. Tinordi was absolutely buried in the defensive zone, starting 16 shifts there, compared to just two in the offensive zone, yet he managed a positive Fenwick, at 52.6%.
Tinordi could very well have been cut by now, as he has not had a very good camp, but Michel Therrien has given the youngster the benefit of the doubt, and if Friday was any indication, it may be paying off.
Peter Budaj left a lot to be desired in goal, which is leading many to assume that it will be Dustin Tokarski in the backup role with the Habs this year, but I'm not sure. Every goalie has off nights, and Budaj has always had a weakness against teams that play fast east-west hockey like the Senators. I don't see one preseason game making much of a difference in how the Canadiens make this decision, there just too many other factors at play.
The Habs have a chance to get vengeance right away on the Sens, although hopefully they keep that on the scoreboard, instead of buying into the Sens' garbage.