The Montreal Canadiens took a big risk when they iced some of their best players on Wednesday night against the Ottawa Senators, and their pesky, tough guys. It was apparent that the Senators had a game plan, and they certainly did their best to execute, matching Zac MacEwen, Mark Kastelic and a cast of guys who were there to hit and disrupt the Habs’ skilled players.
Kaiden Guhle was on the receiving end of a dirty hit, and on a few occasions Cole Caufield just slipped away from some big hits, Kirby Dach also had a couple of run-ins, and luckily he was able to brace himself to avoid any disaster.
I would have to think that management dodged a catastrophe, getting out of the game with their first win through the last three preseasons and no injuries. The Senators’ lineup featured none of their top players, and if not for Mathieu Joseph’s brilliant two-goal outing and Dominik Kubalik shot, the offence would have hit a wall, since the majority of the offence can’t punch the puck into the net. All jokes aside, the Habs were ill-prepared to match up physically with the Sens’ bruisers.
It’s no surprise that the Atlantic Division features some tough guys, and the Canadiens have some options to help them out in that department, but preseason is an audition, for a roster spot or for a contract to fill the Belleville Senators and Laval Rocket.
With that said, it’s not a surprise that the lineup was a physical, more American League style, but it seems weird that DJ Smith would ice that lineup given who the Habs decided to play for their second preseason game. I feel like an early message was delivered to Martin St. Louis and the Habs, that they didn’t care about winning the game, but trying to irritate the Canadiens stars.
Fight Fire With Fire
Arber Xhekaj showed his stuff last year at his first NHL training camp, and the kickstart of all that Arber fan craze, was when Xhekaj mixed it up in front of the net with Mark Kastelic. Unfortunately for Kastelic, he seemed to forget about Xhekaj since he wasn’t in the lineup, but things would have looked much different had he been there. You would have to think that the next meeting between the Habs & Sens, will feature a few guys that can handle the chippy and rough game that Ottawa was looking to play.
Here is a look at the lineup that DJ Smith iced for the game lastnight, and for the life of me, looking at it, I’m not sure how you don’t dress Xhekaj, Micheal Pezzetta and John Parker-Jones.
Mark Kastelic – Jiri Smejkal – Bokondji Imama
Josh Bailey – Zack MacEwen – Mathieu Joseph
Parker Kelly – Zack Ostapchuk – Rourke Chartier
Dominik Kubalik – Ridly Greig – Cole Reinhardt
Travis Hamonic – Erik Brannstrom
Jacob Bernard-Docker – Dillon Heatherington
Donovan Sebrango – Tyler Kleven
I will leave the goaltenders out of the equation, simply beacause they didn’t impact the game in any way physically. I also want to make it clear that, I know there aren’t just goons in the lineup, and I believe Dominik Kubalik, Josh Bailey, Ridley Greig, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Travis Hamonic and Erik Brannstrom will have great seasons in the NHL. But looking at that lineup, and comparing it to this lineup that the Canadiens dressed, the difference in talent is night-and-day.
Cole Caufield – Nick Suzuki – Sean Monahan
Juraj Slafkovsky – Kirby Dach – Rafael Harvey-Pinard
Lias Andersson – Filip Mesar – Emil Heineman
Gabriel Bourque – Brandon Gignac – Jared Davidson
Kaiden Guhle – David Savard
William Trudeau – Johnathan Kovacevic
Mattias Norlinder – Brady Keeper
Viewing this roster tells you all that you need to know, it’s surprising that the Canadiens didn’t blow out the Senators, but it was many players first real game action. Caufield had a nice goal assisted by Suzuki, and Slafkovsky had his best game of the preseason, albeit just two games. Gignac’s performance was encouraging as well, and he showed the kind of players he is when he came to the defence of Davidson after a questionable hit.
Norlinder was featured as the Canadiens number one power play quarterback, while Trudeau and Guhle had strong outings. It was a great opportunity to get some special teams refs, as the referees seemingly had their whistles glued to their lips, which meant ample opportunity. It didn’t go very smoothly, but the reps were there and the team was able to put together an expected solid outing.
The Canadiens next preseason game will be on Friday night against the rival Toronto Maple Leafs, which always gets bums in seats.
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