The Habs were back in action on Wednesday night as they hosted the Senators. Here are 10 thoughts from the game, a 4-3 victory for the Canadiens.
We’re trying a different postgame format for this one. Let us know on the message board or on Twitter if you like or dislike this format.
As expected, it was a mostly different lineup for Montreal compared to the group that lost to New Jersey on Monday. The team lined up as follows:
Monahan – Suzuki – Caufield
Harvey-Pinard – Dach – Slafkovsky
Andersson – Mesar – Heineman
Davidson – Gignac – Bourque
Guhle – Savard
Trudeau – Kovacevic
Norlinder – Keeper
(Mike Matheson was supposed to play but was a late scratch for precautionary reasons. Kaiden Guhle took his place in the lineup.)
Here are ten thoughts from the 4-3 comeback victory:
1) Brandon Gignac is a largely forgotten player in the organization. Understandably so, too, considering he’s on an AHL contract. There were rumblings earlier in the summer that Montreal might need to convert him to an NHL deal if there was interest elsewhere. That didn’t happen but I think he should at least be in the discussion for a spot to start the season if they are looking for another centre to help fill Christian Dvorak’s spot. Gignac is a capable fourth-line middleman, one that won’t give you much offensively but he’ll get to the right spots and provide some energy. He certainly showed that in this game.
2) Mathieu Joseph is playing like someone who is really trying to showcase himself and he made his presence felt on a relatively weak Sens roster. Ottawa badly needs to clear his contract to re-sign Shane Pinto. If Montreal decided to shift gears and go to using offseason LTIR, they need to add salary. Teams are asking a high premium so far to take on the three years left on Joseph’s deal. While it goes against GM Kent Hughes’ original plan, I wouldn’t be shocked if he sniffs around on this one even if there’s no room for him on this roster.
3) It’s amazing what a difference having a bit of veteran depth on the back end can make. After a game where New Jersey skated circles around the Habs’ blueliners, the presence of David Savard, Johnathan Kovacevic, and even Brady Keeper stood out from a reliability standpoint. Not that they didn’t have some struggles themselves but there weren’t as many blatantly open chances in the defensive zone as a result. Keeper’s signing went under the radar but his role will be to do what Savard does for Montreal, play with a bit of a physical edge, and log some tough minutes.
4) This version of Juraj Slafkovsky is one that can be a difference-maker in the NHL. He looks a bit quicker out there and more importantly, more assertive. He’s talked about shooting more which is something that was an issue last year and he didn’t hesitate when the puck came to him in the slot on his goal. I also liked the drive to the net in the second period off the rush, that’s something we didn’t see much of last year either.
5) Speaking of drives to the net, the fact that this was a preseason game certainly shapes Emil Heineman’s drive in the second, one that earned him a well-deserved penalty. If it was the regular season, I don’t think the coaches would have been happy. Viewed under the lens of an exhibition match though, that aggression probably helps him a bit. His shot is certainly NHL-level but now it’s about bringing enough other elements to the table to give him a leg up on his training camp competition.
6) An under-the-radar stat from tonight: Lias Andersson played 3:00 shorthanded. In 2021-22 with Los Angeles, he played 3:41 total over 20 appearances. Penalty killing (or defensive play in general) isn’t part of his game. If he’s going to make this roster as a centre to cover Dvorak’s absence, showing he can handle this element would certainly help his chances. On a related note, he played just 10:06 in this one; it would have been nice to see him get a bit longer of a look.
7) Sean Monahan looks healthy. Nothing fancy about that but after another really long layoff, it doesn’t look like he has lost a step. Style-wise, he’s not the perfect complement to Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield but his head and how he thinks makes him a potentially viable option. A healthy Monahan is a useful player for this franchise both on and off the ice.
8) It’s preseason so I don’t want to read too much into it but Cayden Primeau’s performance didn’t inspire me with much confidence. Not that he played poorly but he played nervous. He moved robotically, was almost afraid to leave his crease, and just didn’t look comfortable. If you’ve seen him in Laval, he’s not like that down there. Whatever the concern is when he puts on a Montreal uniform, it’s something he’s going to need to shake. At most, he probably only has one appearance left this preseason and he’s showcasing himself to not only the Habs but to 31 other teams in the league.
9) Jared Davidson is another player I’d have liked to see play more in this one but 14 power plays between the two teams kind of made that impossible. Skating is the big question mark for him but he kept up in this one and made a couple of nifty plays to set up good scoring chances, one of which went in. With only four games left, he’s iffy to get another outing but he made a good impression.
10) How in the world was this Montreal’s first preseason win since 2019? How does a team lose 15 straight preseason games? Nice to see that streak end, meaningless as it may be.