Pre-season action continued on Saturday night, as the Ottawa Senators hosted the Montreal Canadiens in front of a large Canadian Tire Centre crowd. Both teams’ rosters put emphasis on players vying for an opening night roster spot, although with a recent large roster cut for from Ottawa’s end, the Sens also ended up playing top guys like Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Craig Anderson.
Even though some of the big names were playing, ultimately it was Ottawa’s top prospects that came through, propelling them to a 5-1 win over the rivals.
The first goal of the game came off a fantastic play by Logan Brown, who despite being tripped maintained control and made a pass to Bobby Ryan. The Montreal defence, who was a big weak point throughout the game, completely forgot about Ryan who made a move to the inside. The puck ended up back on Logan Brown’s stick, and with Al Montoya flat on the ice, Brown made an easy move around to put Ottawa up 1-0. Brown spent the majority of the game manning the top line alongside Bobby Ryan and Mark Stone, a fantastic opportunity for the young centre to show what he can do.
Not too long afterwards, we got a glimpse at the elite skills of Thomas Chabot, who pulled a nice deke past Chris Terry to get a shot on goal. Dorion said during intermission that “if he continues playing like that, it’ll be tough to return him to Belleville.” He’s making an impression on management, one that just might get him a regular spot in the Sens’ lineup.
Ottawa scored to go up 2-0 before the 10 minute mark, with Max Reinhart finding the back of the net. With other depth forwards such as Chris DiDomenico and Ben Sexton cut from the roster earlier today, the Sens must see something they like with Reinhart. The play began after Reinhart won the faceoff, and Cody Ceci sent a shot towards the net. Alex Formenton fought for the puck in front, and got it loose to Reinhart who finished the play.
Ottawa took two consecutive penalties shortly after, which changed the momentum of the game. In the second half of the period, Montreal had twelve shot attempts to Ottawa’s two, although Craig Anderson stood his ground to preserve the Sens’ two goal lead.
The intermission allowed Ottawa to regain some composure, as they came back firing to go extend their lead to three. Johnny Oduya received a pass along the blue line from Chris Wideman, with a lot of space in front of him. He skated up and fired a slap shot far side on Al Montoya, one he surely wishes he could have back. Oduya earned his first goal in a Senators uniform, with the game looking bleak for the Habs.
The score became 4-0, as Mark Stone netted his second goal of the pre-season. Max Lajoie sent the puck towards the net this time, and with the large crowd in front, it somehow found its way to Stone’s leg and deflected to the back of the net.
One player trying to crack Montreal’s opening roster this season is 23-year-old Charles Hudon. He scored nearly a goal every other game in the AHL last season, and he showed off his shot tonight with a snipe past Craig Anderson to get the Habs on the board. That was all the scoring Montreal could muster, as Ottawa held a commanding 4-1 lead, while also leading in shots 23-16 (12-4 in that period alone).
The final frame saw much less action in the offensive zone for Ottawa, as a series of three consecutive penalties (double minor for Smith + too many men) kept them on the PK for a large chunk of the period. The penalty killers did their job, however, with Montreal unable to find the back of the net for a second time.
Ottawa closed off the game with a power play of their own, with Logan Brown scoring his second goal of the game for the finishing touch. Mark Stone threaded a side-to-side pass to Mike Hoffman, who sent a hard pass to the slot on the stick of Brown.
Montoya ended the evening with a save percentage of .861, as Ottawa’s five goals extended their pre-season perfection with a third straight victory.
Logan Brown: Fighting for an opening night roster spot to fill in for Derick Brassard, Brown made quite the impression notching two goals and five shots (tied for the team lead). Filip Chlapik, his main competition for the spot, looked good as well, although as of now it appears that Brown has the edge.
Alex Formenton: The Sens’ recent second round pick not only dominated with his speed (his most prominent trait), but he was also much more calm with the puck on his stick. He assisted on the first two goals and tied Brown with a team-leading five shots on goal.
Thomas Chabot: Lots of the prospects came through tonight, and Chabot was dominant the entire game. From jumping into the offensive zone, to being well-positioned on the back check (and leading the team with three blocked shots), he’s really making a case for Dorion to keep him in the NHL.
Mark Borowiecki: Boro can largely be held accountable for Montreal’s lone goal, as he was out of position trying to make a hit. This wasn’t an anomaly either, as his 8:01 next to Thomas Chabot was a really weird decision by Guy Boucher.
Zack Smith: Smith took four minor penalties, all of which were avoidable, and had a hard time connecting with his passes. Overall a rough night for Smith.
Craig Anderson: Although Montreal only managed 26 shots on goal, many of which were from a further distance, Anderson stayed solid. He had to make a couple great saves in the third period during the long penalty kill.
Artturi Lehkonen & Charles Hudon: The two formed Montreal’s most dangerous offensive duo, with a combined twelve shot attempts. At 22 and 23 respectively, they both have the potential to break out as big scorers this season.
Special Teams: Both the power play (1/4) and penalty kill (7/7) paid off for the Sens, and it’s interesting to see which players Guy Boucher decided to use in these situations. Stone, Hoffman & Ryan were the top deployed players on the power play (as expected), although both Chlapik and Chabot received top minutes as well. The most used penalty killers were defenders Boro, Lajoie and Ceci, followed by Mike Blunden and Chris VandeVelde. Considering how heavily VandeVelde was used, we should see in the near future whether Boucher/Dorion think he’s worth keeping around.
Pre-season action moves Prince Edward Island, as the Ottawa Senators will face the New Jersey Devils in a split squad game Monday, September 25th at 6:00 p.m.