The Habs were back at home this past week with a couple of strong teams on the schedule plus a team wanting to contend in the draft lottery. Montreal put forth some good efforts and was able to pick up a pair of victories to sit at .500 on the early season.
The Week That Was
Oct. 17: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (OT) – Evgeni Malkin scored twice in the second period with Montreal struggling to muster up much once again. However, that all changed in the third period when Nick Suzuki potted his own rebound on the second shift to give them a chance and Cole Caufield tied it up with the goalie out with just over two minutes to go. Former Hab Jeff Petry took three penalties in the game, the last of which came in overtime which allowed Sean Monahan to set up Kirby Dach for a rare power play goal that also secured the extra point.
Oct. 20: Canadiens 6, Coyotes 2 – In a battle of two teams widely predicted to be bottom-feeders, only one lived up to expectations. The Habs, meanwhile, broke out offensively against Connor Ingram who was making his first start with Arizona. Juraj Slafkovsky scored his first career NHL goal, Arber Xhekaj won his first NHL fight, and Nick Suzuki scored on a rare shorthanded penalty shot with a highlight-reel goal you’ve surely seen by now.
Oct. 22: Stars 5, Canadiens 2 – This was a game filled with plenty of turnovers which is something that should be expected from a team running out four rookies on the back end. Dallas had their fair share as well which led to a lot of transition play and an entertaining, albeit sloppy, performance from both sides. Xhekaj picked up his first ever NHL tally while Joe Pavelski led the way for the Stars with a hat trick.
Goals: Cole Caufield (4)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (4)
Points: Nick Suzuki (7)
+/-: Harris/Suzuki (+4)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (13)
Shots: Cole Caufield (21)
News And Notes
– Jake Allen missed Monday’s game due to the birth of his child so Cayden Primeau served as the backup. Corey Schueneman had to be sent down to make room on the roster although he has since returned.
– Juraj Slafkovsky is believed to be dealing with a wrist injury. He’s listed as day-to-day. Meanwhile, Joel Edmundson (back) and Joel Armia (upper body) have both resumed skating with non-contact sweaters.
– David Savard is the early leader in blocked shots with a whopping 31 through six games. Heading into Sunday’s action, only two other NHL defencemen had reached 20 and one of those happens to be former Hab Alexander Romanov.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Monahan
Dadonov – Dvorak – Gallagher
Drouin – Dach – Anderson
Pitlick – Evans – Hoffman
Guhle – Savard
Harris – Kovacevic
Xhekaj – Wideman
The Week Ahead
Tuesday vs Minnesota – It has been a surprisingly slow start for the Wild. They’ve been pretty good offensively (3.6 goals scored per game) but they’re allowing more than five per contest with both Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson struggling. Veteran Mats Zuccarello is off to a hot start, averaging two points per game while former Hab Jon Merrill was activated off IR on Saturday and made his season debut against Boston.
Thursday at Buffalo – Heading into the season, it would have been reasonable to think that the Sabres would struggle offensively. They have Craig Anderson as their starter again with Eric Comrie, who bounced around the waiver wire a couple of years ago, as the backup. Instead, they’ve allowed the third-fewest goals in the league so far. Rasmus Dahlin is the first defenceman in NHL history to score in five straight games to start a season while Alex Tuch is off to a hot start with six tallies in his first five contests.
Saturday at St. Louis – The Blues have only played three games so there isn’t much to glean thus far although they’ve been stingy defensively, allowing just five goals. Jordan Binnington is now the undisputed starter with Ville Husso now in Detroit while Vladimir Tarasenko is off to a nice start in his contract year, averaging two points per game.
Generally speaking, I don’t think many have been particularly fond of David Savard’s tenure in Montreal. I think he has been better than what some might suggest but I suspect I’m in the minority on that one. Either way, he’s someone that will carry a lot of value on this roster this season. He can log some tough minutes to keep the pressure off some of the youngsters. I don’t necessarily mean the most minutes but the toughest ones – the ones against top competition and the first wave of the penalty kill. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he leads the league in shots blocked early on and I expect that to continue for a while (or at least until the cumulative wear and tear knocks him out of the lineup).
At a time where many expect the Habs to sell, it’s understandable to think that moving out a veteran like Savard would make sense in theory. He’s not a part of their long-term plans and some extra money freed up wouldn’t hurt either. But there’s a legitimate reason to hold onto him as well. Let him bear the brunt of the tough minutes and allow the prospects to develop at a more gradual pace over throwing them into tougher minutes that they’re probably not going to be quite ready for. He’ll make his mistakes and it might not be pretty at times but I’d rather have a veteran struggle in that role than a youngster. Savard is worth keeping around for a little while yet as a result.