Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen – Max Domi – Joel Armia
Nick Cousins – Nick Suzuki – Jordan Weal
Ryan Poehling – Nate Thompson – Riley Barber
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Otto Leskinen – Cale Fleury
Cayden Primeau – Carey Price
Christian Folin, Mike Reilly
Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin, Victor Mete, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Matthew Peca
If there was any question that the Canadiens have shelved their high energy, strong forechecking, activated defence game plan, tonight’s game is exhibit A.
Geoff Molson’s promise of entertaining hockey has also had to go by the wayside in a desperate effort to put a playoff-worthy team on the ice.
Given Marc Bergevin’s inattention to defence in the off-season, Montreal is one of the worst defensive teams in the league having allowed 105 goals in 32 games, that’s fourth worst in the league. The Habs are better than only Detroit, San Jose and New Jersey, the latter two teams having already fired their coaches.
Since the eight-game losing streak, Julien has dialed back the forecheck and clogged the neutral zone in an effort to limit odd-man rushes. It’s a defence-first system and that applies to all five skaters on the ice.
The radical change in the game plan has Habs fans labeling recent games as boring hockey. But the ‘boring’ approach has led to four wins in the Canadiens first six games of December.
Tonight, Montreal delivered one of their best defensive performances of the season. The Habs allowed just three high-danger scoring chances at even strength in more than 61 minutes of play. For a team that has been one of the worst in the league in that category, it was the fewest given up all year.
And that was just fine with rookie Cayden Primeau, making just his second start in goal. With Canadiens skaters focused on limiting odd-man rushes and chances from the slot, Primeau had a relatively easy night. Against an Ottawa team, who have had difficulty scoring, it was a chance for Primeau to get some work, build his confidence and provide a well-deserved night off to Carey Price.
It wasn’t an ideal win with Montreal allowing the Senators to tie the game with two goals in the third period. But, the Habs took advantage of some shoddy defensive play by Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot in overtime for the win. Ben Chiarot filled the role of the unlikely extra time hero.
The players will make their annual Christmas visit to children’s hospitals on Thursday and will be back at work on Friday, practicing in Brossard. The Canadiens will host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday at the Bell Centre.
Plus / Minus
▲ Ben Chiarot, Shea Weber
▼ Jordan Weal, Otto Leskinen