The Habs had some success on the road this past week as they picked up a pair of victories away from the Bell Centre including a rare victory in Columbus, a place where it had been a while since they had any success.
The Week That Was
Nov. 22: Sabres 7, Canadiens 2 – About the only good thing that can be said about this one for the Habs is that no one was injured. Buffalo scored three times in the first 2:13 of the game and things quickly went downhill from there. Montreal is rebuilding and there are going to be nights where nothing much goes right. This was one of those.
Nov. 23: Canadiens 3, Blue Jackets 1 – This was a game that won’t be going down as a classic as it was a tale of two struggling teams playing down to their level. Scoring chances were few and far between early on and it took until the third period before any team managed to score. Montreal picked up three unanswered tallies including a pair of rare goals from a defender with David Savard’s first of the season standing as the game-winner.
Nov. 25: Canadiens 3, Blackhawks 2 (SO) – Joel Edmundson doesn’t score many goals and of the ones he does score, they’re rarely off the rush which made his re-direction tally while charging the net to open the scoring particularly noteworthy. Montreal held the lead for most of the game but Taylor Raddysh tied it up late in the third but the Habs went three for three in the shootout to pick up the extra point.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Caufield/Suzuki (12)
Assists: Kirby Dach (13)
Points: Nick Suzuki (24)
+/-: Johnathan Kovacevic (+5)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (47)
Shots: Cole Caufield (78)
News And Notes
– Mike Hoffman missed all three games due to a lower-body injury sustained last weekend. As of yet, the Habs haven’t placed him on injured reserve but if they do have to do that to bring up an extra forward from Laval, they’ll be able to backdate the placement which would allow him to be activated at any time.
– Christian Dvorak’s numbers to start this season are very close to what they were at the start of last year. Through 21 games this year, he has four goals and five assists and through 21 games last season, he had three goals and five helpers. Notably, his playing time is down more than 2:30 per game over that stretch so he’s at least slightly more efficient.
– Jake Allen set a new career high against Buffalo and it’s not a good one as the seven goals he allowed were the most he has ever coughed up in a single game.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Dach
Dadonov – Dvorak – Gallagher
Armia – Monahan – Anderson
Slafkovsky – Evans – Pezzetta
Matheson – Savard
Edmundson – Guhle
Xhekaj – Kovacevic
The Week Ahead
Tuesday vs San Jose – It has been a tough season for most of the Sharks. They are struggling mightily defensively and have allowed the second-most goals in the NHL. Even with an offence that’s in the middle of the pack, it’s hard to overcome those types of goalie issues. One San Jose player who is having a big year is Erik Karlsson who has come out of nowhere to go back to being one of the most dynamic offensive blueliners in the NHL.
Thursday at Calgary – One of the strengths for the Flames this season was supposed to be Jacob Markstrom, giving them a high-end starter on a regular basis. That hasn’t happened as his save percentage sits at just .889 so far. Meanwhile, Jonathan Huberdeau has just three goals so far in a slow start with his new team. The end result is that Calgary is a team that was supposed to contend for the division lead is instead battling for a Wild Card spot early on.
Saturday at Edmonton – Edmonton hoped that Jack Campbell would help solve their goaltending struggles but instead, he has a GAA over four and a SV% of .875. The injury to Evander Kane took a big bite out of their attack although Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are capable of winning a game on their own at any time. Former Hab Brett Kulak is averaging 17:39 per game so far with three assists in 21 contests.
The first quarter of the season has come to an end and, all things considered, it has been a pretty good one for Montreal. They’ve been competitive most nights, even as they’ve started to come back down in recent weeks. Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki have picked up where they left off a year ago (although Suzuki is due for a bit of a scoring slump as that shooting percentage isn’t sustainable). Kirby Dach is doing well as a complementary player on the top line and while he’s not playing centre, he’s certainly playing an important role and for a 21-year-old, that’s what matters. Defensively, the four rookies have more than held their own with some even thriving. Even Samuel Montembeault has put together a nice run so far although again, I think it’s not quite sustainable.
A lot of attention is being paid to where the Canadiens are in the standings and, with the draft class that lies ahead, that’s certainly understandable. But the success this season isn’t solely going to be defined by, well, a lack of success in the standings. If the young core players are playing big roles, the long-term benefits will be strong. They are, and, again, most of them are doing quite well. Even if you’re actively rooting for losses, the play (and development) of Montreal’s young group is certainly worth winning for, win or lose. So far, things are going well on that front which is why they improbably are hanging around the playoff mix early on. If the other three quarters of the season are like this one, it’ll be a pretty good year for the Habs.