Saturday, September 24, 2011

23/09/11: Montreal 4, Ottawa 3 (SO); vets lead way

While we've stated that losing in preseason isn't a real concern, repeated losses may eventually have the effect of weighing down team morale. Thus, it was a nice sign to see the Montreal Canadiens bounce back from a 3-o deficit last night to top the Ottawa Senators 4-3 in a shootout and improve their exhibition game record to 1-2-0.

P.K. Subban had been the Habs' top player against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday but he was held out last night with a minor upper body injury. The slack was picked up by another young veteran, Max Pacioretty, who followed up on a "decent" first outing against Buffalo to lead the way with 2 goals, a boatload of shots and chances, plus a nice shootout marker against the Sens. Pacioretty looks ready to start the year, every bit as fast as his pre-injury self and playing the same game.

A player that DOESN'T want to repeat last year, Scott Gomez, made his preseason debut and looked far better than he did for most of last year. Gomez skated the puck well and set up some chances, all the while showing off his trademark carrying of the puck through the neutral zone - a skill at which there might be no better forward in the league. While it wasn't pretty, he was credited with the game-tying goal in the last 35 seconds by positioning himself in front of the net and whacking away at a rebound.

In addition to scoring the shootout winner, Erik Cole picked up 2 assists to now give him 3 points in 2 games. He was most noticeable in creating turnovers throughout the game, picking the pockets of opposing defenders. Looks like he'll be a nice fit.

If his first game against Buffalo was disappointing, it may have been just nerves, as Brendan Gallagher turned his play up many notches last night. His quick hands were evident as he took advantage of playing with Pacioretty and Gomez in coming up with several near-miss scoring opportunities.

In goal, Carey Price made a few nice saves, a small improvement from his first outing. But he still doesn't seem to be in season shape, with 3 pucks getting by him on 18 shots in the game's first half. Nathan Lawson looked quite good playing the second half, as while he didn't have to make many tough saves, he supported the rush well, most evidently with a long bomb breakaway pass he fed to Pacioretty for his second goal on the powerplay.

In what may be training camp's biggest surprise, Gabriel Dumont is meddling with a lot of prognosticators line-ups and depth charts. The short but feisty center has been far more remarkable than the likes of Aaron Palushaj, Brock Trotter, or even Andreas Engqvist. It will be interesting to see how the Habs handle the situation, as Engqvist fits the team's need better due to his size, and is a very responsible defensive player, but Dumont has shown greater upside in playing more physically and having a better rounded game.

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