The Montréal Canadiens went to Ottawa looking for a fifth straight win on Saturday night and they succeeded. Before this streak, they had eight wins in the entire season.
And while Ottawa is an improved club, going in the right direction with their rebuild, but the Canadiens are hot.
Artturi Lehkonen had the two goals in Montreal’s 2-1 win.
It is so easy to love how Martin St. Louis coaches.
The Canadiens have had 25 years of defensive coaches. The type of coach who puts out defensive players in overtime. The type of coach who worries about the best players on the other team, but is not excited about the talent on his own.
Sure, stopping goals is half the game. But how about that other half when you score goals? That’s the fun half, and that is St. Louis’s half. He gets it that there are times when you let your best be their best.
The most challenging offensive situations are when there are fewer players on the ice. That’s why that 3-on-3 with Philip Danault was exasperating. Not that Danault can’t play, but Montreal should score that overtime goal first, not second.
Since St. Louis has taken over, the forwards out first in overtime are Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. That’s the pair that should be out there to go get the additional point.
In this contest against the Senators, during the first 4-on-4 situation in the game, the first over the boards and the pair to take most of the ice-time was Suzuki and Caufield. They dominated. Caufield was all over the place just creating. Suzuki owned the puck too. Even Alexander Romanov got on the ice trying to get a 4-on-4 goal.
It’s enjoyable watching a St. Louis-coached club. All of the moves he has made: keeping the puck in the opposition’s zone, teaching players how to perform as second forward and third forward in the attacking zone. It has paid off in many more goals.
And wouldn’t you know it, you spend time down in the other club’s zone, suddenly, the goals allowed by the Canadiens is down significantly since St. Louis’s arrival. Everyone is impressed with the five goals and the chicken wings, but the two against, on average, is also impressive.
So many wonderful things can happen when a club plays in the offensive end. The Canadiens will get the puck luck. The Canadiens will get the most shots. As a result the Canadiens will gain confidence. The Canadiens will suffer less fatigue. If it goes to overtime, the Canadiens will be ready to keep going.
This is just scratching the surface considering it’s being done with a defence that is not a puck-moving defence. Imagine what St. Louis can do with all of his philosophies when he has a six-pack of defenders who are puck movers.
It could be quite impressive when the club adds defenders who can move it up ice quickly, get out of the zone quickly and play in the offensive end.
It’s easy to get excited about the coming seasons. There’s some time to put in while players mature, but when they do, a more enjoyable brand of hockey is on its way — without a doubt. The entire organization wants to bring excitement to the rink. You can sense it coming.
When I mentioned that there was no chance they were going to lose a top five draft pick, I meant that. At best, the Canadiens were going to win one, then lose one, or perhaps the odd time take two of three. This is starting to get a bit dicey, if you were expecting that one or two hole to draft from this summer.
The Canadiens have won five straight games. They started winning right after St. Louis had a chance to run his first practices. This is no coincidence.
So enjoy, or don’t enjoy, but the Canadiens seem intent on winning. There’s really very little to critique. They’ve allowed only seven goals in five games, while scoring 17.
It’s odd — reporting on Carey Price. The latest word about his health from the Canadiens is he is progressing well with his off-ice rehab. That sounds good. Like things are moving in the right direction.
However, the club also added that Price won’t take to the ice in the week to come either, and will continue off-ice workouts.
How well when he has had two setbacks? How well when he has no plans to take to the ice soon?
It’s five months now since the surgery. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to say progressing when he can’t actually practice on the playing surface of his preferred sport.
At the same time, there is no urgency to get Price back in action. Management doesn’t need Price coming on board to maybe be a world-class goalie at this point the season. The club is winning as it is.
No one likes a lack of transparency. However, in this case, considering the overall situation, the opaque nature that surrounds Price is acceptable enough.
No one needs to be disappointed by living with a little mystery. The bonus is Price gets all the time he needs, in whatever capacity he needs, to get his game in order before he returns.