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The general opinion of the Montreal Canadiens’ recent road trip may have soured with the complete domination at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes last Thursday, but it was otherwise encouraging from those who were in the lineup. They salvaged a point after being emotionally disengaged versus the New Jersey Devils, battled back from a three-goal deficit to tie the Florida Panthers after 40 minutes before Florida ran away in the third period, and they finally got rewarded for a good effort versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, coming out on the winning end of a third tight contest of the season.
In Saturday’s game, two rookies scored goals: Cole Caufield with Montreal’s first and Jesse Ylönen with the game-tying marker in the third. Had Corey Schueneman been born two weeks later, that number would have been three as the defenceman netted the second goal of his first NHL season.
If there were worries about how Jordan Harris would fare versus one of the league’s top teams, he quickly put those to rest with very composed play on the defensive side, and even felt confident enough to join a few offensive rushes. Justin Barron led all defencemen in scoring-chances-for percentage despite getting more defensive-zone starts than offensive ones.
With these players featuring in the lineup, the Canadiens’ makeup will more closely match that of the Ottawa Senators tonight, whose roster is made up mostly of the players they’ve been drafting and developing in recent years. It’s a roster Montreal hasn’t had much trouble with so far this season.
Tale of the Tape
|44.9% (30th)||Scoring-chances-for %||47.5% (23rd)|
|2.54 (31st)||Goals per game||2.65 (26th)|
|3.77 (31st)||Goals against per game||3.22 (23rd)|
|13.4% (31st)||PP%||18.9% (23rd)|
|74.4% (28th)||PK%||80.8% (13th)|
Montreal faced Ottawa days after the Senators lost their pillar on defence, Thomas Chabot, to injury, and the Habs faced little resistance on the way to a 5-1 win. To their credit, the Senators have rebounded quite well from the initial shock of losing their top blue-liner, with a 3-2-1 record in the six games since. Those results include convincing wins over the Winnipeg Jets and Detroit Red Wings, as well as a game versus Florida in which they held a 3-0 lead before the Panthers came storming back (something they’ve made a habit of doing).
Josh Norris has continued his scoring ways since potting the only goal in the 5-1 loss to Montreal on February 19, but the addition of Mathieu Joseph has been a big one as well. Brought in for Nick Paul in a trade with the Lightning, Joseph just put up seven points (4G, 3A) in a two-game set with Detroit.
The Habs and Senators are now into their final stretches of the season, and fans have one eye on the young players making their cases for elevated roles next year and the other on the standings for the draft lottery positioning. The way both clubs are playing, they’re not as interested in claiming the first overall pick as the fanbases are, but that’s a more realistic outcome for Montreal, who sits tied for last place once again. The Senators will still be picking quite high this summer, but they’re probably too far ahead of the pack to fall to the top-odds position.
The Canadiens just put the toughest section of their schedule behind them, and now face only six playoff-bound teams in their final 13 games. It means motivation like we saw versus Florida and Tampa Bay may be rarer in the month of April, but the no-quit attitude Martin St. Louis instilled upon his arrival won’t be disappearing anytime soon. If they do begin tonight’s game the way they started versus the Devils a week ago, they’ll surely get a rude awakening from a Senators team that doesn’t have a low gear.