After the Montreal Canadiens’ 4-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday evening, Canadiens interim head coach Dominique Ducharme was asked whether he would make any changes to his lineup. He looked at the camera and repeated that the Canadiens cannot make any recalls.
When he first mentioned it Friday morning, he implied it was due to daily salary cap management. While that isn’t the main reason, there is some truth to that.
Throughout the season, the Canadiens have made a habit of sending players to the taxi squad to save on the salary cap. On the day before the trade deadline, they did this again. As of the day of the trade deadline you can make four recalls. Three of the Canadiens recalls happened the day of the trade deadline to play the Toronto Maple Leafs that night: Paul Byron, Alexander Romanov, and Xavier Ouellet. Jake Evans was also recalled, but was counted as an emergency recall, which does not count on the limit.
That meant three of the four possible recalls were used. There are very good reasons why a playoff-bound team will not use that fourth recall. If the playoffs started today, the Canadiens could call up as many players as they want to play a playoff game — with a caveat. Only three of Byron, Romanov, Ouellet, and whoever they recall can play in the same game. If they make a fourth non-emergency recall before the end of the season, then they cannot make any additional recalls in the post-season. The roster is essentially locked as is, barring injuries.
It’s why the Canadiens cannot make any changes to the lineup at forward: they only have 12 forwards on the roster. The options open up on defence, where they have eight players on the roster once Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson are out of quarantine.
We do not know whether this was a conscious decision, but we do know it is affecting how Ducharme can deploy his roster.
“If we see the possibility, we will do it. But, in the situation that we’re in, we can’t make any changes,” Ducharme said.
Asked if he was frustrated by the lack of options, he was matter of fact: “We’re all in this together, and we’ll get out of it together.”
Oh right, there was a game...
The Senators opened the scoring on their first shot of the game. Drake Batherson’s initial shot hit off of Joel Edmundson’s face, and he then found Artem Zub at the top of the slot. Zub’s shot made its way through traffic and past Carey Price.
If the first shot was not the start the Canadiens’ goaltender wanted, he found his game shortly after on the Senators’ first power play of the game. Price made several saves, including a big glove save on a shot from the top of the crease from Evgenii Dadonov.
Price made 11 saves on 14 shots in the game.
Montreal had a power-play chance of its own when Brady Tkachuk went off for interference midway through the period, but they were unable to get a shot on goal and were stuck on one shot until the final three minutes of the first period.
The Canadiens had two chances late in the period, and seemed to find their legs. Artturi Lehkonen had a chance in the slot that was blocked, and Jonathan Drouin had another great chance in front but couldn’t beat Matt Murray, one of his 23 saves on the day.
Montreal started the second period short-handed, but killed the penalty without much difficulty. They had an early power play of their own, and while it was more successful than their first one, it didn’t result in much of a threat.
After a solid stretch of play that saw the Canadiens generate some offence, a turnover led to Batherson getting a shot from the circle and he beat Price to double the Senators’ lead with less than seven minutes remaining in the period.
On the second of two offensive zone penalties, Batherson scored his second of the game while surrounded by four Canadiens defenders.
With just over four minutes remaining, Nikita Zaitsev fired a puck down the ice for the empty-net goal after a defensive zone faceoff win to make it 4-0.