Last week was a bit of an up and down one for the Habs who started and ended with a disappointing result with a pair of dominant victories in between. But it wasn’t all bad as Victor Mete finally got his first NHL goal.
The Week That Was
Oct. 15: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1 – There are games where you can get away with some sloppy defensive play. Tampa Bay is not one of those teams that you can get away with it though. The Habs actually played relatively sharp defensively with the exception of the last couple of minutes in the first period and the first couple of minutes in the second. In that span, the Lightning scored three times and while Montreal controlled a lot of the play beyond that, they weren’t able to get more than one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Oct. 17: Canadiens 4, Wild 0 – This one was over pretty quickly as the Habs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and Minnesota more or less rolled over. It was a night of firsts as Victor Mete finally scored his first career goal less than two weeks after setting a franchise record for the longest goal drought to start a career; it actually held up as the game-winner as well. Meanwhile, Nick Suzuki added his first NHL tally in the first period as well while Carey Price had one of the easier shutouts of his career.
Oct. 19: Canadiens 5, Blues 2 – For the second straight Saturday, the Canadiens largely outplayed the defending Stanley Cup champions. One of the stranger goals of Brendan Gallagher’s career set the tone for a three-goal second period which turned the game in Montreal’s favour quickly. A dump-in that was going wide of the net was played by Jake Allen but it went off his stick and right into the net and St. Louis really didn’t recover from that.
Oct. 20: Wild 4, Canadiens 3 – While the Habs have shown some signs of defensive improvement over the last few games, they reverted back to their early-season form for this one. The penalty kill wasn’t sharp and neither was their defence. Keith Kinkaid allowed four goals in the losing effort but he kept Montreal in it.
Goals: Armia/Danault/Gallagher (4)
Assists: Max Domi (6)
Points: Domi/Gallagher (9)
+/-: 4 tied with (+3)
PIMS: Tomas Tatar (12)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (33)
News And Notes
– Joel Armia missed both games over the weekend with a lower-body injury. While it’s not believed to be serious, it’s worth noting that he wasn’t with the team at practice which suggests he may not be ready for their next game.
– Two weeks ago, there was a link in this column to vote for Youppi! in the first round of voting for the Mascot Hall of Fame, a place that actually exists in Illinois. He made it through the first round and is on the final ballot. Voting runs through October 26th and you can vote once per day. Click here for the ballot.
– Brendan Gallagher’s second period goal against Minnesota was only two seconds shy of the NHL record for the fastest goal to start a period.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Domi – Byron
Drouin – Kotkaniemi – Weal
Byron – Thompson – Suzuki
Mete – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Chiarot – Fleury
The Week Ahead
Oct. 24: vs San Jose – The Sharks got off to a dreadful start to their season but have somewhat turned things around over the last week and a half. Evander Kane hasn’t missed a beat after serving an early three-game suspension while Brent Burns is once again leading the way offensively.
Oct. 26: vs Toronto – The Maple Leafs are among the top scoring teams in the league and they’re only two weeks removed from putting up five on the Habs. Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott are both eligible to come off LTIR for this one but they will be without captain John Tavares who suffered a finger injury that will keep him out for at least a couple of weeks.
Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of having top prospects play on the fourth line. It was one of the reasons why I was strongly in favour of sending Ryan Poehling to Laval to start the season, a decision that looks like a pretty good one in the early going. Nick Suzuki now finds himself in that role but while it goes against my preference, I actually think it’s a reasonable spot for him.
Claude Julien has given Suzuki a regular turn both on the penalty kill and power play which is something rarely seen for someone on the fourth line. However, he’s consistently hovering between 14 and 16 minutes per night which, quite frankly, is what would have been the rough expectation had he stayed on the second line. The pressure to produce is lower with the fourth line where he can focus primarily on doing the little things right defensively. That will keep him in Julien’s good graces and prevent him from getting the big drop in playing time that would make an AHL stint much more desirable.
This is a somewhat similar approach that he took with Jesperi Kotkaniemi last season aside from the penalty kill element. While some wanted Kotkaniemi to play more, he was able to hold down a regular role before tiring down the stretch and all in all, he had a reasonable rookie season considering he was the youngest player in the league. That’s going to be the benchmark now for Suzuki and considering he’s coming off a year that saw him play deep into May, the fatigue element shouldn’t be as much of a factor. The fourth line isn’t typically a good spot for player development but when it comes to Suzuki, it just might work.