Canadiens @ Senators game recap: Montreal falls 3-0 in final pre-season match
Not much was happening for the Habs on the ice, but there were still some takeaways for the bubble players from the last preparation game.
Four minutes into Saturday’s game, the Ottawa Senators opened the scoring. A giveaway by the Montreal Canadiens behind their own net allowed Tom Pyatt to get the home team on the board.
The Senators added two more in the second. A mix-up on a crossing pattern from the Senators led to Noah Juulsen and Xavier Ouellet colliding, leaving Matt Duchene open to knock in a cross-crease pass. On a power play less than five minutes later, another cross-ice pass left Carey Price with little chance to prevent Bobby Ryan from making it 3-0, which is how the game ultimately concluded.
It seems the players were mostly content to play out the clock and get ready to start the regular season, but there were a few performances worth noting, and ones that Claude Julien and his coaching staff will reference over the next 24 hours as they finalize the opening-night roster.
There had been a few stories about Hudon needing to step up his game to hold onto the NHL spot that he finally earned last season. He may have been the best Canadiens player on the ice last night, constantly in the action setting up linemates Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar, though, as was often the case last year, it didn’t result in any offence.
There’s little doubt that Hudon has the tools to be an NHL player, and his spot shouldn’t really be in jeopardy. A game-high scoring-chances-for percentage of 78.6% is a good statement if the coaching staff was looking for him to make one.
Trying to occupy the same space as Juulsen wasn’t the prettiest moment of Ouellet’s pre-season, but it was also one of the few where he didn’t look like an NHL player. The game was a final performance for him to show he could play in Montreal, and a few injuries on the back end combined with being one of the few current options with goal-scoring ability will probably be enough to earn him a place — at least temporarily.
That means there will be no room for Després in a seven-defencemen alignment, but he is open to the option of playing with the Laval Rocket, and that is very likely the plan for a player who wasn’t able to seize his opportunity, but still showed some decent ability.
If there were any fears that Niemi would return to the poor form he showed to begin the 2017-18 season with both Pittsburgh and Florida, he’s eased them with his pre-season showings. On to play the third period, he made a few quality saves, including on a breakaway, to post a 20-minute shutout. He will most likely be taking the backup role while Charlie Lindgren returns to Laval for the season.
Scherbak had moments in the pre-season, including a few great net drives that had him looking like a power forward. But in a game as important to his chances as last night, he didn’t make much of an impact, with a shot from around the top of the circle being one of the few moments he was noticeable.
A poor pre-season last year ultimately turned into a great stint with Laval, resulting in an eventual call-up, where he looked much better. Unfortunately, that option may not be on the table this time around, as Scherbak would need to clear waivers first. A first-round pick with untapped offensive potential may be too enticing for a few teams to pass up. Andrew Shaw’s injury may be what allows Scherbak to stick around to start the season, though it probably won’t be in a regular role.
He wasn’t as noticeable in last night’s game, but had previously displayed NHL ability, and that he deserved a place on the roster. He should be sticking around, even if it is in an extra-forward role.
Kenny Agostino and Michael Chaput
They’ve both shown some skill and it’s obvious that they will be important players for an AHL team, but the waiver situation makes it uncertain that they would get there. A late-game fight with Max McCormick won’t be enough to force the coaching staff to keep Chaput around.
The Canadiens need to cut two forwards from camp as part of the process to trim the roster down to 23 healthy players for opening night. You’d have to think that Agostino and Chaput are the ones to go. A claiming team would need to place them on the NHL roster, and they haven’t really shown to have what it takes to earn that spot, so clearing may not be so much of a concern.
Jacob de la Rose
De la Rose also had an uninspiring pre-season. Unlike Scherbak, he doesn’t have that offensive promise to buy him more time. Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s position on the NHL squad shuffles several centres down the order, and that may push the Swede right out of the lineup.
With Shaw back practising with the team, his return may not be far away. Do the Canadiens simply hang on to their 14 healthy forwards and wait for Shaw’s return to force another move? Or do they get proactive, take advantage of the fact that most other teams are healthy ahead of the new season, and sneak de la Rose through waivers now, leaving just 13 forwards and 22 players on the roster, while the other teams aren’t in position to claim another player? It may be a conversation that will be held by management over the next day or so.