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The Habs kicked off their 2023-24 campaign with a pair of Original Six games.  They blew a late lead against Toronto and nearly did the same on Saturday against Chicago although they were able to come out of the week with three of a possible four points.

The Week That Was

Oct. 11: Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 5 (SO) – Things got off to a nice start for the Habs as Jake Evans scored on a breakaway early in the first while Alex Newhook doubled the lead barely a minute into the second.  However, holding leads was a problem last season and is again this year as Toronto scored three unanswered in the second to get the lead.  To Montreal’s credit, they bounced back with three in the third to regain the two-goal advantage which they then promptly blew again in the final five minutes.  A power play in overtime yielded nothing and the Maple Leafs scored the lone goal in the shootout with William Nylander beating Jake Allen.

Oct. 14: Canadiens 3, Blackhawks 2 – After a goalless first period, the Habs found their legs in the second, popping three past Petr Mrazek including Tanner Pearson’s first goal as a Canadien, his first tally in 50 weeks after missing so much time with his hand injuries last season.  However, they just about gave it away again, allowing two in the third while a late Sean Monahan penalty gave Chicago a six-on-four to finish but Montreal was able to kill it off to secure the win.



# Player GP G A +/- PIMS SOG ATOI
8 Mike Matheson 2 0 1 -2 2 6 25:37
11 Brendan Gallagher 2 0 0 +1 0 2 11:22
14 Nick Suzuki 2 0 1 -3 4 4 20:19
15 Alex Newhook 2 2 0 +1 2 4 15:46
17 Josh Anderson 2 0 1 E 4 4 15:35
20 Juraj Slafkovsky 2 0 1 +2 0 3 14:54
21 Kaiden Guhle 2 0 1 +4 2 7 18:14
22 Cole Caufield 2 2 0 E 0 6 17:52
26 Johnathan Kovacevic 2 0 0 +5 0 0 18:52
49 Rafael Harvey-Pinard 2 0 2 E 0 3 13:21
54 Jordan Harris 2 0 0 -1 2 3 18:29
56 Jesse Ylonen 2 1 0 E 2 1 12:40
58 David Savard 2 0 0 -3 2 1 23:13
70 Tanner Pearson 2 1 0 +1 0 1 12:40
71 Jake Evans 2 1 0 E 2 3 13:56
72 Arber Xhekaj 2 0 1 +1 19 3 14:01
77 Kirby Dach 2 0 2 +2 0 3 13:01
91 Sean Monahan 2 1 1 +2 4 6 18:39


# Player Record GAA SV% SO
34 Jake Allen 0-0-1 4.62 .881 0
35 Samuel Montembeault 1-0-0 2.00 .933 0

Shootout – Skaters:

# Player G/ATT
14 Nick Suzuki 0/1
22 Cole Caufield 0/1
77 Kirby Dach 0/1

Shootout – Goalies:

# Player SVS/SF
34 Jake Allen 2/3

Team Leaders:

Goals: Caufield/Newhook (2)
Assists: Dach/Harvey-Pinard (2)
Points: Five tied with (2)
+/-: Johnathan Kovacevic (+5)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (19)
Shots: Kaiden Guhle (7)

News And Notes

– Montreal wasn’t quite able to make it through the first week without an injury as Kirby Dach suffered a lower-body injury early in the Chicago game on a hit from former Hab Jarred Tinordi.  There’s no word yet on how much time he might miss.

– Cole Caufield has three goals in as many season openers against Toronto.  He now has eight goals in ten career appearances against the Maple Leafs, the most versus any opponent in his career.

– Christian Dvorak is skating on his own which is a good sign that he might not be out much longer than the minimum.  As he’s on LTIR, he has to miss at least the first ten games and 24 days of the season; there is no retroactive option as there is with regular injured reserve.

Last Game’s Lines:

Caufield – Suzuki – Anderson
Newhook – Dach – Slafkovsky
Pearson – Monahan – Gallagher
Harvey-Pinard – Evans – Ylonen

Matheson – Savard
Guhle – Kovacevic
Xhekaj – Harris

The Week Ahead

Tuesday vs Minnesota – The Wild are coming off a tough outing in Toronto that saw Filip Gustavsson allow a career-high seven goals.  That said, we all know Marc-Andre Fleury is going to get this start no matter what.  Minnesota is also banged up; Jared Spurgeon has yet to play while Matt Boldy and Patrick Maroon both left Saturday’s game with injuries.  Barring putting Spurgeon on LTIR, they don’t have the cap space to bring anyone up so if those two can’t go, they might have to play short a forward.

Saturday vs Washington – The Capitals added a pair of former Habs in the summer and they’re already both on IR.  Max Pacioretty is working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon while Joel Edmundson was injured in training camp (no, not his back this time).  Pittsburgh shut them out in their only game so far this season, one that featured another former Canadien between the pipes with Charlie Lindgren getting the start with Darcy Kuemper away for personal reasons.  He has since returned to the Caps.

Final Thought

Montreal had a glorious opportunity to win in overtime against Toronto when they got a power play in the back half of overtime.  As teams like to do now, the Habs put out four forwards.  This was one of those cases where what makes sense on paper doesn’t make sense in reality.

Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki were on the sides.  Both are pretty obvious picks.  Sean Monahan was in front of the net.  No issues there.  That left Kirby Dach as the quarterback on the point.  That one made no sense.  All of last season, how many power plays ran through Dach on the point?  I’m pretty sure the answer is zero.  That isn’t to say he didn’t spend any time on the point, just that whoever the other one back there was is who the offence ran through.

So, what happened?  Monahan was covered in front, Caufield and Suzuki were tied up, and Dach looked lost.  A non-shooting threat from the point is no threat at all, especially in a four-on-three scenario where puck movement is key.  Instead, the group was stagnant because Dach was clearly uncomfortable in that role. 

I’m not criticizing him either, being put in a situation that he’s not set up for success in isn’t his fault but rather the coaching staff’s.  In the future, either have Suzuki at the point who is used to moving the puck much quicker or just put Mike Matheson on there who is a shooting threat and can also move the puck.  Four forwards works when you have four forwards that can make a viable four-on-three unit.  The Habs don’t have that so why force a square peg in a round hole?  Here’s hoping they learn their lesson for next time.