After a tough Tuesday at the office versus the New Jersey Devils, the Habs continued a busy stretch of games as they hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. Samuel Montembeault was making just his third start of the campaign as the Habs continue down the three-man crease path, one detail that seems likely to change before they hit the road next week. For this contest, the Habs came out rather flat but got better as the game wore on. In the end, they were able to come from behind and win the game 4-3 in overtime.
Cole Caufield — Nick Suzuki — Rafael Harvey-Pinard
Josh Anderson – Alex Newhook — Juraj Slafkovsky
Tanner Pearson — Sean Monahan — Brendan Gallagher
Michael Pezzetta — Jake Evans — Jesse Ylonen
Mike Matheson — Justin Barron
Jordan Harris — Johnathan Kovacevic
Arber Xhekaj — Gustav Lindstrom
1) I didn’t love the coverage by Matheson and Barron on that first Jackets’ goal. Matheson’s uncertainty in coverage early in the sequence was particularly troublesome as that’s the team’s top defender simply not identifying that Johnny Gaudreau was easily the bigger threat on the play.
2) I generally like that Martin St. Louis is a coach who doesn’t show too much emotion during a game. It was one critique I had of Claude Julien who would be whining about calls even when they were obvious. However, St. Louis has to learn that he can sometimes have his players’ back. That the game remained 5-on-5 after the Xhekaj fight was incomprehensible and it would have been one of those times when the officials should have received an earful about it. Might have prevented it from happening a second time within five minutes. In the end, the coach was likely right, but the emotional response could have maybe worked in waking up the team.
3) Special teams… again. Suzuki won’t shoot, everybody in the building knows they are trying to go to Caufield. Evans was overly soft on the penalty kill early on which failed to clear the zone. Rinse and repeat. They turned it around in a big way in the second half of the game with two power play markers to send the game to overtime. Some big plays by Caufield to make it happen. Evans also has to be recognized as he came back and delivered in a big way on two key kills in the third period.
4) Not a great first period for Montembeault. Two goals against but many other pucks appeared to get through him despite missing the net. He bounced back in the second and held down the fort from there.
5) Strong start to the second period as Suzuki intercepted a pass in the offensive zone and rifled home a shot that beat Elvis Merzlikins to get the Habs back in the game. Why he won’t use it on the power play is beyond me. Too bad they weren’t able to capitalize on that momentum a bit more.
6) Really good pressure by the Canadiens to start the third period, but their inability to even it up caught up with them after five minutes as Gallagher took a neutral zone penalty to end the momentum.
7) Two guys that won’t get stars in this game but likely deserved them are Anderson and Monahan. Monahan won 56% of his faceoffs, many in key moments down the stretch. Anderson and Newhook appear to like playing together as their speed matches well and it caused some serious problems for the Blue Jackets on this night. All they need now is someone to finish on their line.
8) Montreal appeared to find a bit of a soft spot in the Jackets’ coverage in the final ten minutes as a few soft passes behind the weak side defenceman led to a few partial breaks for Anderson and Caufield. They weren’t able to beat Merzlikins, but the chances were there.
9) What a gutsy effort by the penalty killers in overtime, including some great stops by Montembeault. This allowed the Habs to get some offensive zone time once the play returned to three-on-three for the second half of the period as Matheson, Anderson, and Caufield all got some looks to end the game.
10) This is becoming a habit, but one that many Habs fans could get used to. On his third or fourth attack on the same shift in overtime, Caufield finally created enough space for himself as he released a rocket of a shot right under the crossbar to end the night with two points for the good guys.
HabsWorld 3 Stars
1st Star – Mike Matheson
Much like Jeff Petry before him, the defensive zone play by Matheson can be somewhat erratic (See the first Columbus goal). However, his play with the puck is dynamic. Where I really prefer Matheson to Petry is that he has a bit more of a mean streak in his game than Petry did. After taking the hit that got the Habs their power play, Matheson controlled the puck and mixed up the attack to send the Jackets scrambling. The result, Caufield found Monahan to tie it up. Another solid game from the top defender, and another important power play marker to get the team going heading into the third period.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, even, 2 shots, 1 hit, 28:03 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Cole Caufield
Big time players deliver in big time moments. In the second half of the game, every single time Caufield touched the puck, the buzz in the building could be felt through the screen. He delivered the right play on the man advantage to tie the game and then the blistering top cheddar snipe to win it.
Stats: 1 goal, 2 assists, +1, 8 shots, 0 hits, 20:21 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Nick Suzuki
Well, this was not a complete game effort from the captain, but it was certainly a step in the right direction which is important considering the prime ice time he gets game in and game out. Getting the monkey off his back to start the second appeared to really alleviate his game as he finally looked a little more confident with the puck on his stick afterward.
Stats: 1 goal, 2 assists, +1, 5 shots, 0 hits, 20:31 T.O.I.