Saturday was the second night of a back-to-back for the Blues, and the third game in four nights, but the home team solidly outplayed the visiting Canadiens, handing the bleu, blanc, et rouge their third consecutive loss in what was a game as lopsided as the 6-3 final score demonstrated.
Yes, Joel Hofer played very well for the Blues and kept them in the game when it mattered. But there were far too many things that St. Louis did better than Montreal on this night, and there is no question that the Blues were clearly the better team this time.
Caufield – Suzuki – Slafkovsky
Anderson – Dvorak – Newhook
Pearson – Monahan – Gallagher
Pezzetta – Evans – Armia
Matheson – Kovacevic
Guhle – Barron
Xhekaj – Harris
1) The Blues seemed to have caught the Habs unaware with the early pressure, and multiple early rush opportunities. Samuel Montembeault bailed the defence out on an early shot by Colton Parayko, but just 30 seconds later, Justin Faulk sent a pass across the front of the net, and Montembeault had no answer to Brayden Schenn’s shot.
2) The Habs’ power play continued its recent hot streak with a goal on the game’s first power play, and that’s the good news. However, especially the PP1 unit had trouble executing a controlled zone entry, and the Blues repeatedly broke up the passes.
3) The second power play unit, with Juraj Slafkovsky, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Newhook, Tanner Pearson, and Arber Xhekaj actually looked better, with Pearson getting close and Slafkovsky putting the puck into the net.
4) Slafkovsky’s first goal of the season has been long awaited, and by no one more so than the young Slovak himself. He may be able to deal with the Montreal media pressure, but there is no doubt that the pressure he was putting on himself was eating him up.
5) This game did no favours to Montembeault’s stats, but the reality is that the Habs’ defence was very much porous on the night, giving the Blues forwards plenty of open ice in front of the net.
6) Brendan Gallagher really does seem to be back in form. With a goal and an assist against St. Louis, he now has four goals and seven points in eleven games, a similar level of production to his heyday in the 2017-2021 seasons. And he no longer has Phillip Danault or Tomas Tatar, instead toiling on the third line with much less ice time. It’s only eleven games, but so far Gallagher is showing some fight–and production–to justify his roster spot.
7) Cole Caufield is a goal-scorer par excellence, but he has clearly been working on rounding out his game. He’ll never be a defensive stalwart, but he is showing no fear in engaging the opposition in board battles–and is able to win some of those, too.
8) Martin St-Louis had Mike Matheson and (mostly) Jonathan Kovacevic on the top pairing again, and the duo spent much of the game facing the Blues’ top line, led by Jordan Kyrou. This time they struggled mightily in trying to contain the St. Louis top unit. They might not be the right choice for this assignment, at least against some opponents.
9) The Canadiens showed some fight late in the game, but it was probably already too late–and it’s likely the Blues were feeling the effects of back-to-back games, and a third in four nights, by this time. For much of the game, the bleu, blanc, et rouge were out-skated and out-hustled by what would have been a tired St. Louis team.
10) Who would have predicted that the Canadiens would completely avoid the penalty box on this night? The only way might have been by comparing the head coaches’, Martin St-Louis’s and Craig Berube’s records as players, as Berube recorded roughly ten times as many penalty minutes per game in his long career as St-Louis did. So, the clean penalty record was good, but then the short-handed Blues goal did negate that.
HW Habs 3 Stars
First Star: Brendan Gallagher (1g, 1a, 4 shots, 14:05 TOI) was doing everything that he knows best, making things happen in front of the Blues’ net. His goal, the fourth of the season, looked great and showed that he can still shoot, too, not only push the puck in with his body.
Second Star: Juraj Slafkovsky (1g, 0a, 4 shots, 18:08 TOI) was energized on the night, and surely partial credit for that goes to his early power play goal that saw him lift the puck over Joel Hofer’s shoulder. Four shots might have taken him four games before, but now he is feeling confident enough to shoot, and that bodes well for his development.
Third Star: Jordan Harris (0g, 0a, 2 shots, 16:44 TOI) redeemed his weak game the preceding weekend, playing a solid game mostly with Arber Xhekaj. Harris was on the ice for only a single high-danger scoring chance for the Blues.