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Call Of The Wilde: Montreal Canadiens drop another to Ottawa Senators

The great untold story this season is that the Ottawa Senators have been competitive unless they were playing the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton completed a perfect 9-0 record against Ottawa. Against the rest of the North Division, the Senators are close to .500. That’s the preamble to suggest that no one should take this club lightly – except Edmonton – and that they can surprise. And that’s what they did at the Bell Centre again in a 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

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There is no reason to fill this section. The Canadiens were shutout at home. Down by two in the third period, they desperately needed to generate offence and there was no urgency at all. The energy level did not lift up one iota. The Canadiens generated only 23 shots on goal against Ottawa. The Senators counted four goals on only 15 shots. It was an ugly afternoon of hockey.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens defeat Calgary Flames 2-1 in vital contest

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The same issues are ailing the team game after game. It’s a team that can not generate much offence anymore regardless of the strength of the opponent. The reason is mostly due to not being able to create anything from the back end of the ice to get out of the zone, and to transition up the ice with any speed.

The club recognizes its own issues, so what has happened is they are now back to playing an extremely safe brand of hockey with very few events in the game. This is Claude Julien hockey where it’s being coached like you don’t feel like your team has any talent to open the game up. It’s just that the coach has changed to a new guy, but the new Dominique Ducharme is the old Julien. It’s Julien 2.0.

Hands up who finds this at all entertaining. It’s a results-based business, but this, even if it were a win, would be a tough game to come back from with any enthusiasm.

The rare win these days is because of outstanding goaltending, like Friday night when Jake Allen stole one. In this contest, Carey Price was unable to steal one.

READ MORE:Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens going wrong way with 4-1 loss to Calgary Flames

There is also a fatigue issue for the Canadiens as there is no question that four games per week in seven or eight days is too much hockey, but no one wants to hear that excuse. No legs is no legs, but you can’t just give up and say there is no energy for this. You have to find a way somehow. You have to deal with this because it’s not temporary. Four games in seven is the rest of the season.

In this moment, this is a .500 hockey team, and that likely will be enough for a playoff spot. A catastrophic collapse is not likely in the cards here, but all in all, it’s still pretty disappointing for a fan base that was quite excited after a dominating the first 12 games with all of the new talent shining so brightly. That team feels a long time ago.

The truth is that big change to the club’s success happens not by polishing this egg a little differently. The big change happens with blue line talent that can move the puck quicker, so the club is not so damaged by the strategy of a strong forecheck that leaves them in their own zone 50 seconds at a time. The sad truth is they are not the better team in any games recently. They are getting what they deserve.

READ MORE: Call Of The Wilde: Winnipeg Jets shutout the Montreal Canadiens

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Cole Caufield will travel with the club on its five-game road trip through the west of Canada. The trip begins in Edmonton on Monday, but Caufield won’t necessarily be playing just because he is travelling. 

Head coach Dominique Ducharme says that with the Laval Rocket having only one game in April on the Toronto Marlie due to COVID-19, that the organization prefers for Caufield to get acclimated into the NHL surroundings. 

Ducharme indicated that Caufield can only play when there is an injury because of the salary cap being so tight. He will remain on the taxi squad. 

Playing with the Canadiens during practice will be beneficial. It’s not game beneficial, but it can still acclimate the Hobey Baker winner to the speed of the NHL game and players. 

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens double the Toronto Maple Leafs

Also on the injury front, it could be that Brendan Gallagher will be ready for the start of the playoffs. Confirmation Saturday that Gallagher does not need surgery on his broken right thumb. This should take a week out of the recovery timeline. 

Monday will be quite an interesting day for the club as the two defenders that were acquired can begin to slot in to the line-up. It will be fascinating to see who sits if they try to get Jon Merrill or Erik Gustafsson into the line-up. 

Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on after each Canadiens game.

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