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The Habs hosted the Calgary Flames on Tuesday evening in a game where the Canadiens were the better team for large portions of the contest. A few posts later, a few great saves by Jacob Markstrom later, and Josh Anderson being denied on plays where the puck should be going in, and just like that, Montreal lost their second in a row, this time by a 2-1 score in what was a rather entertaining game.

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

Mike Matheson – Justin Barron
Kaiden Guhle – Johnathan Kovacevic
Arber Xhekaj – Gustav Lindstrom 

Samuel Montembeault

10 Thoughts

1) Watching the even-strength play in the opening period left one surprised that no goals were scored. Both teams were rather generous in their respective defensive zones which allowed a list of high-end scoring chances at both ends of the ice. While I haven’t had the chance to watch Calgary much this season, this style would certainly favour the Habs traditionally as the Flames were more of a grind and play physical team in the past. In the end, an excellent period by Montembeault and Markstrom.

2) The fourth line was once again excellent despite Ylonen stepping in for Michael Pezzetta. They were likely the most dangerous line on either side in the first period. Ylonen even delivered his best Pezzetta impersonation as he laid out a Flame with a big hit at centre ice.

3) 67%. That was the faceoff percentage in favour of the Habs in the first period. That’s Monahan at 100%, Suzuki at 75%, and Dvorak at 50%. Seems like an easy way to explain why the Habs were able to impose their style on the period.

4) Three mistakes on one shift: poor body count by Lindstrom led to a bad decision to pinch. Then, a weak puck battle by Dvorak was compounded by some bad gap control by Xhekaj as Nazem Kadri got a spinning shot by Montembeault. On the same shift, Slafkovsky showed nice patience, got the puck to Dvorak behind the offensive net who found Lindstrom sneaking in to put it home.

5) I like that Anderson is now able to pull up with the puck when entering the offensive zone. However, if it becomes the only thing he ever does, it too will become predictable. I would like to see him charge the net the way he used to from time to time so that the opposition must respect both possibilities. It would make him so much more effective in both scenarios.

6) It was once again poor defensive coverage by Lindstrom and Xhekaj that opened the door for Calgary’s second goal as Connor Zary was able to slip behind the coverage to tap it in.

7) Calgary’s third goal was brought back due to an offside. However, it must be said that while Matheson’s pass on the play was soft, he was also left out to dry by the forwards on a fourth line flying the zone early. I could understand Caufield or Newhook trying to fly the zone, but that can’t happen if you’re Harvey-Pinard or Ylonen. Got lucky with the offside.

8) Shifty little move by the coaching staff who reunited Caufield with Suzuki and Newhook for the final ten minutes of the game. On their first shift together, they created enough to lure Kadri into a penalty. I like the idea of keeping Suzuki and Caufield apart until key moments in games as they had become too predictable at 5 on 5.

9) The Habs pressed for most of the rest of the game but couldn’t get through despite Matheson hitting the post on the power play and Anderson (who can’t freaking buy one!) getting absolutely robbed by Markstrom in the final minute. Solid effort, not enough finish. It’s one of those games where having a second game-breaker to add to Caufield can make a difference.

10) Much of the discussion after this one will be around the unbelievably weak call against Gallagher in the defensive zone. The official in the zone is right there, I don’t understand what the neutral zone official was thinking there. It created a similarly weak call on Andrew Mangiapane a minute later, but none of it needed to happen and the discussion becomes about the officials instead of what was an entertaining game.

HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars

1st Star – Juraj Slafkovsky 

After two excellent performances that yielded nothing for him on the scoreboard, Slafkovsky once again played a strong game, this time earning himself a secondary assist after showing poise with the puck which allowed the play on the only Habs tally. On a game where chances were plentiful early for the Habs, that this stands as the best for the Canadiens is rather disappointing. 

Stats: 1 assist, even, 4 hits, 1 shot, 14:23 T.O.I. 

2nd Star – Samuel Montembeault 

I didn’t like his rebound control early on, but he made big saves when it mattered to keep the team within striking distance. Too bad his team couldn’t give him any run support as he needed to be perfect on this night. 

Stats: 27 saves on 29 shots, .931 save %, 2.05 GAA, 58:35 T.O.I. 

3rd Star – Kaiden Guhle 

Guhle came out strong and looked poised to be a monster all night long. He was far quieter after the skate scare. He’s been so good recently that I wonder when the coaching staff will start allowing him to see more ice than Matheson. I guess the answer to that is when he gets his chance on the power play since it’s likely the biggest difference between the two players’ ice time right now. 

Stats: even, 1 hit, 3 shots, 20:06 T.O.I.