Montreal might have won on Saturday afternoon, but they did so in quite possibly the worst fashion this year. They came out strong after a disappointing loss on Thursday, but fell off hard as the game went on, getting saved by a fantastic showing by Jake Allen once again. Off games are going to happen in the NHL, but against a team like Ottawa, Montreal shouldn’t be dropping many points as they contend for the division lead with Toronto.
It is fair to point out that Montreal likely deserved a better fate in Thursday’s game with Ottawa, a game they dominated outside of a small window at the end of the first period. In Saturday’s game, Montreal had a strong start, and then just failed to generate any meaningful attack as the game wore on.
That’s not even score effects playing a role, given that the game was tied up until early in the third period. Even when they got the lead, the Senators had fully wrested control of the game from Montreal, who could only sit back and rely on Jake Allen to keep their lead intact.
Part of the loss of control was their penalty problem rearing its head once again. Montreal had trouble staying out of the box, and when you’re setting up to to kill penalties so often, you’re losing chances to roll four lines and beat teams with a relentless attack. Montreal was able to cruise through teams like Edmonton and Vancouver due to that depth, but if they can’t stay out of the box it handicaps them.
Whether it was playing down to the competition, just two rough games in a row, or something else, Montreal needs to reassert its style with a big week ahead. This team wins when it plays with speed and power; look no further than the game-winning goal on Saturday. Jonathan Drouin attacks with speed, Nick Suzuki drives the net, and then Josh Anderson jumps on the rebound to score, all while Ottawa scrambles.
When it comes down to it, sometimes you just have to win ugly, simple as that. The caveat is that a team can’t make a habit out of winning games like these because it’s an inefficient way to collect points. The team as a whole is 8-2-2, a fantastic start to the season, but two disjointed efforts should hopefully serve as their wakeup call with a pair of games with Toronto looming on the schedule.