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After an emotional game versus the long-time rival Boston Bruins that ended with yet another overtime victory for the Habs, the team was immediately back in action on Sunday night as they hosted the red-hot Vancouver Canucks. Luckily for the Canadiens, the Canucks were also in action on Saturday, so both teams were tired despite the fast pace of this game. This also meant that the Habs were facing summer Hab Casey DeSmith instead of Thatcher Demko. DeSmith had a strong game, and the Canucks were opportunistic in the second period as Montreal dropped the decision 5-2. 

Montreal’s lineup:
Alex Newhook — Nick Suzuki — Josh Anderson
Tanner Pearson — Sean Monahan — Brendan Gallagher
Cole Caufield – Christian Dvorak – Juraj Slafkovsky                            Rafael Harvey-Pinard — Jake Evans — Michael Pezzetta 

Mike Matheson — Justin Barron
Kaiden Guhle — Johnathan Kovacevic
Arber Xhekaj — Jordan Harris 

Jake Allen 

10 Thoughts

1) The opening half period was all Habs as they forechecked hard, hit hard, and got some excellent scoring chances, none better than Pearson ringing one hard off the post against his former team.

2) The first period was highly entertaining as the Canucks eventually found their legs and fired back. The period was fast and demanded high-quality defensive plays by both teams to keep the game scoreless after 20.

3) After scoring the overtime goal last night, Guhle was the best player on the ice for either team in the opening period. If that goal unlocked an even better Guhle, fans will be even happier than they already are with that young talent on the Montreal blue line.

4) Anderson is frustrating at times with his inconsistent play. On both games this weekend, he used his usual flip and chase into a cut toward the middle and chase. The play was wildly effective as he was responsible for many scoring chances in favour of the Habs. I’ll take this version that drives to the middle instead of trying to get around on the outside.

5) The first goal of the game came off the rush as J.T. Miller found Conor Garland. A team will almost always look at what went wrong on a play. Sometimes, one simply tips their cap on a nicely executed play in all three zones to score. This was a rare occasion where the latter is the case.

6) A nice bounce back from the Habs was denied by an offside coaching challenge after Slafkovsky’s strong zone entrance led to a Dvorak goal. That call was a bigger momentum killer than the Garland goal. Ilya Mikheyev scored immediately after on a play where Allen was left without a stick and allowed a goal that looked like a softie but is likely excusable due to the stick situation.

7) Slafkovsky did everything right all night long and often found himself placed for a scoring chance that he simply couldn’t finish. Frustrating to watch, I can only imagine how frustrating it had to be for the player. Noticed by coaching staff too as Slafkovsky got extra ice in the final minutes.

8) After allowing the third Vancouver goal late in the second, the Habs had a great chance to get back into the game with a 5 on 3 for nearly 50 seconds at the start of the third. Matheson finally put one in that would count, but I have to say that I thoroughly disliked that the only other two shots came from Anderson. Officially, the first penalty was over, so the goal ended the power play.

9) With 10 minutes to play, it was time for goaltending. DeSmith made two fantastic saves on a shift from the Monahan line, and with Gallagher hobbling to the bench with a missing blade, it was Allen making two huge stops to keep the game 3-1. Unfortunately, the outcome of the Allen saves was a Pearson penalty that they killed. Allen was solid all period long as the Habs pushed offensively to get back in the game and often left some prime scoring chances that Allen had to stop.

10) After an empty-netter put the game out of reach, Xhekaj decided to go end to end as he made it 4-2 in the last minute. Not sure he can pull that off if the result of the game isn’t already decided, but it was a nice goal nonetheless.

HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars

1st Star – Jake Allen 

Allen got a ton of credit in the first half of that game when I felt like his teammates did great work keeping the Canucks to the outside and blocking shots that came from the inside. Then they went down a couple of goals and started pressing. When they did that, they opened the middle and Vancouver feasted. If not Allen, that game is gone before that third period even starts. Then, he made at least a half-dozen big stops in that third period alone to keep his young, offensively pressing team a chance to stay in the game. Really, an excellent effort from Allen who did more than his share to earn better results on this night. 

Stats: 32 saves on 35 shots, .914 save %, 3.06 GAA, 58:53 T.O.I. 

2nd Star – Kaiden Guhle 

A few weeks ago, the fan base was going nuts with the play of Mike Matheson and rightfully so. Right now, Matheson has come back down to earth a bit, and it’s the play of Guhle who is quite noticeable. That first period was particularly noticeable as he was likely the best player on the ice for either team. Things weren’t so great in the second, but he settled down nicely in the third. If he can mature into a player that is even close to what was seen in that first period regularly, the Habs will have a bona fide top defender on the team for years to come. 

Stats: -2, 2 hits, 1 shot, 20:20 T.O.I. 

3rd Star – Juraj Slafkovsky 

Slafkovsky has had some nice chemistry with Dvorak and Caufield. He was all over the ice on this night as he did everything except score. For a little bit, I thought he and Anderson had switched jerseys as Slafkovsky pretty much played like Anderson did last night. Good game by him, they’ll go in if he plays like that more often. 

Stats: -2, 6 shots, 16:48 T.O.I.