Last week was an eventful one for the Habs. They picked up a pair of overtime victories but those were book-ended by a pair of losses to keep the Canadiens just outside the playoff picture.
The Week That Was
Nov. 7: Lightning 5, Canadiens 2 – The Habs had a chance in this one, facing a goalie who was still looking for his first career win. However, Tampa Bay blew a big lead the night before and was determined to avoid that fate in back-to-back games. They popped four past Jake Allen before the game was 14 minutes old and that was simply too much of a deficit for Montreal to overcome.
Nov. 9: Canadiens 3, Red Wings 2 (OT) – This time, the Habs got off to a much cleaner start, in large part thanks to Cayden Primeau who impressed in his second start of the season. Nick Suzuki’s power play marker early in the third gave Montreal the lead but J.T. Compher got that one back soon after, sending the game to overtime. A rare holding penalty was called on James Reimer, giving Montreal a late man advantage and they capitalized with Cole Caufield notching his third overtime winner of the young season.
Nov. 11: Canadiens 3, Bruins 2 (OT) – Boston has been a tough team this season with their strong goaltending picking up exactly where it left off and a quality defence corps doing its job. It took until the third for the Habs to get on the board but Suzuki and Brendan Gallagher both scored in the opening minute. The Bruins got that back when Brad Marchand scored on a power play, setting the stage for another overtime. This time, it wasn’t Caufield who scored the winner. Instead, it was a unlikelier contributor as Kaiden Guhle tallied his first career game-winner.
Nov. 12: Canucks 5, Canadiens 2 – This was a game where the score doesn’t reflect how close it was. Montreal played the high-scoring Canucks pretty tight but a three-goal second period was too big of a gap. Mike Matheson got Montreal on the board in the third to make it interesting while Arber Xhekaj potted his first of the year on a nifty move in the final minute.
Goals: Monahan/Suzuki (6)
Assists: Cole Caufield (9)
Points: Cole Caufield (14)
+/-: Kaiden Guhle (+7)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (47)
Shots: Cole Caufield (56)
News And Notes
– With Jordan Harris being questionable for Sunday’s game, the Habs had to bring up Gustav Lindstrom from Laval. To make room on the roster, Joel Armia was sent down to the Rocket.
– Cole Caufield is the fastest player in NHL history to get to seven overtime goals, doing it in 136 games. The previous record was held by Frank Finnegan who needed 222 games to notch his seventh OT winner.
– Very quietly, Montreal has now cracked the top ten in power play success rate, checking in at 23%. Considering how bad it was at the beginning of the season, that’s a pretty impressive turnaround.
Last Game’s Lines:
Newhook – Suzuki – Anderson
Pearson – Monahan – Gallagher
Caufield – Dvorak – Slafkovsky
Harvey-Pinard – Evans – Pezzetta
Matheson – Barron
Guhle – Kovacevic
Xhekaj – Harris
The Week Ahead
Tuesday vs Calgary – After making a coaching change over the offseason, the Flames were a popular pick to rebound this season. Instead, they have just four wins so far and are dealing with below-average goaltending and below-average offence. Jonathan Huberdeau has scored just twice while GM Craig Conroy has suspended all extension talks in case he decided they need to turn around and sell. Starting goalie Jacob Markstrom is day-to-day; top prospect Dustin Wolf is now up and made his season debut over the weekend.
Thursday vs Vegas – The Habs will wrap up their season series with the Golden Knights rather quickly. They remain the number one team in the NHL on the backs of being one of the top-scoring teams and one of the stingiest defensive squads. William Karlsson, who has spent time on the third line this season, has a point in 11 of the last 12 games to take the team lead in scoring away from Jack Eichel who is averaging a point per game in the early going.
Saturday at Boston – Yes, them again. There isn’t much to say from the last time they played. Montreal has the rougher schedule heading into that matchup; including Sunday’s game against Vancouver, they’ll have played three games in between meetings. Boston, meanwhile, will have just one on Tuesday. Milan Lucic was supposed to be ready to come off LTIR for this game but that doesn’t appear likely to happen now.
In his first two seasons with Montreal, Christian Dvorak has been okay but hasn’t really stood out. Defensively, he has been alright but offensively, it’s fair to say he has underachieved. Frankly, he’s off to a slow start on that front this year as well with just a garbage-time goal to his name in five games.
That said, I think he has played pretty well in the early going. His presence on the second line gives Montreal a true middleman at that spot. With due respect to Alex Newhook, he doesn’t look like a true centre at this point whereas Dvorak clearly does. That trio seems to be the one where whoever on it doesn’t score much but in terms of five-on-five play, he has made a positive difference.
With a lot of teams capped out, there isn’t much of a viable trade market for Dvorak. With Kirby Dach out for the year, I’m not sure that they’re really looking to move him either, at least for now. With that in mind, just providing the team with steady two-way play should allow him to continue to stand out in a positive way. It’s not a huge bar to clear but for his skill-set, it’s one that he should be able to accomplish. If that happens, I think the public sentiment amongst the fan base will be different at the end of the year than it was coming into it.