There was not much to like about the Montreal Canadiens in their first game against the lowly Ottawa Senators last night. They outshot and out-chanced their opponents, but the lack of sustained pressure and some good goaltending by Matt Murray left them chasing a lead that Ottawa established in the last minute of the first period.
But I submit to you that Josh Anderson’s performance was a silver lining for this team in their first dose of adversity this season. Since being acquired via trade for Max Domi in the offseason, he’s been one of the best players on the team, and certainly was last night.
Domi was a good player for the Canadiens, but when things went wrong for him — as they often did during his tenure — he’d sometimes resort to petulance. Things certainly went wrong for Anderson last night, with his line being ran roughshod, him leaving the game temporarily due to injury, and his team playing easily their worst game of the year. He responded in a drastically different way.
He responded by taking over the game. After taking a cross check that put him out briefly, he came out flying in the third period, and was the one player that looked like he could really turn the tide for the Canadiens. If every player on the roster reacted the way he did, it’s possible they may have done so.
He managed to score a shorthanded goal — adding to the already impressive total by these Habs while down a man — bringing the team within one late in the game. He got the puck off the draw, and let loose a quick release that found it’s way through a screen and into the net.
Unfortunately, it was too little, too late. Perhaps if an absurd penalty had not been called against Tomas Tatar to put the Habs down two men, Anderson would have had a chance to complete the miracle shorthanded comeback. But as bad as that call was, the team put themselves in that position, so they can’t sit around wondering whether they could have pulled it off.
I do suspect that Josh Anderson will, however. Looking at the level he took his game to in the third period, I can’t imagine him being okay with the way that game ended. If he comes out on Saturday with the same fire that he did in the third period yesterday, he will have yet another commendable game for these Habs.
We just have to hope that he is not the only member of the Canadiens to come out with that fire this weekend.