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Ottawa's Anderson makes Sens a Contender. Habs Changes Imminent

January 31, 2013, 12:28 PM ET [2400 Comments]
Habs Talk
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How good are the Ottawa Senators? Time will tell. But based on what they showed last night, they're as good as any team in the league so long as Craig Anderson's playing like that.

The Canadiens had their hand in what proved to be a 5-1 win for the Senators. Indiscipline cost them in the second period, when the game was sealed on a double minor to Ryan White, with Alfreddson and Zibenajad depositing. Andreson shone bright in a third period dominated by the Canadiens.

There was a lot of second guessing on the decision to start Peter Budaj, but it would be pretty hard to suggest the Habs would've won if Carey Price had gotten the nod. The fact is that Budaj was brilliant in the first period, asleep on the Alfreddson goal in the second, and from that point forward, the Senators took over.

In their first back-to-back challenge, the Habs weren't exactly convincing, and you can blame that on fatigue, or realize that the team-- 0-2 in their first games against divisional rivals-- has to be able to elevate its play for the occasion.

Coach Therrien expressed his dissatisfaction regarding White's abuse of official penalty, and though the Canadiens aren't practicing today, it's being speculated White will make his way to the pressbox in favor of Michael Blunden. That would hardly be a surprise.

As for Blunden, the Canadiens' extra considers himself to be in the best shape of his career and worthy of a spot on the ice. He showed that during the team's inter-squad pre-season competition, and the lineup could very well benefit from his energy. That's not a knock on White, who's proving early this season to have exactly what the fourth line needs, but a seat in the pressbox is likely to reinforce the message that the line cannot be crossed in such tight situations as a 1-1 hockey game.

The Senators made the playoffs last season with the worst intra-divisional record of any team in the NorthEast. I doubt the Habs want to emulate that, and they'll get an opportunity to claw back to even with games against Buffalo and Ottawa this weekend.

Jason Spezza, who missed last night's game, had a press conference this morning to announce he'd have to undergo back surgery. His two-month absence will give us a true insight on how good the Senators really are.

In the meantime, the Habs need to concentrate on themselves. It has to be part of the season plan--as it would be for any team--to avoid losing consecutive games at all cost.

Last time the Canadiens lost, in their season opener, wholesale changes were made for their next game.

Therrien was wishy-washy on inserting P.K. Subban into the fray before he has a firm grasp on the team's system and what's expected of him. Seems to me, without a practice under his belt until tomorrow, the idea of him playing Saturday is more fantastical than it is real. But that doesn't change the fact that the Canadiens could really use him on their blue line, regardless of four wins through six games.

Inserting Subban is easier to do now that the Canadiens have lost a game than it would've been if they were riding a five-game winning streak into Saturday's game. You don't want the story to be about how Subban's insertion hindered the chemistry of the lineup.

Therrien has to be considering some other changes to his lineup. How can he get David Desharnais, Lars Eller and Erik Cole to produce? Cole seemed to be coming around in last night's third period, but Desharnais is really struggling, and Eller is hardly a left-winger. And creating scoring chances is one thing, but the team needs sustained pressure in the offensive zone from this line, and they're getting none of it.

Will Cole complete a line with Gallagher and Galchenyuk for Saturday's game? Would Eller and Desharnais benefit from a game next to Brandon Prust or Colby Armstrong? Should Eller and Desharnais change places?

Or maybe Armstrong completes the line with Desharnais and Cole, while Eller centres Moen and Blunden.

Either way, expect some changes.

And I think it's safe to assume Price starts Saturday and Sunday.
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