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It was a light week on the schedule for the Habs as they wrapped up the home portion of their 2023 schedule with a pair of games against the Metropolitan Division.  They had multi-goal leads in both games but were only able to hold onto one of them.

The Week That Was

Dec. 13: Penguins 4, Canadiens 3 (SO) – Things couldn’t have gotten off to much of a better start for the Habs who got goals from two defencemen before the 13-minute mark, then restored the two-goal lead a few minutes later with a rare power play goal.  Unfortunately, their inability to hold a lead came back to bite them and by the end of the second, it was all tied up.  While the Habs played well in the final 25 minutes (aside from some power play struggles), they weren’t able to get a fourth one past Alex Nedeljkovic, setting the stage for the longest shootout since 2016.  It also ended 4-3 with Jansen Harkins notching the winner in the 12th round.

Dec. 16: Canadiens 5, Islanders 3 – For two periods, this was one of the best games Montreal played all season.  They looked fresh (compared to the Isles on a back-to-back), got plenty of secondary scoring including two goals from Josh Anderson, and they carried the play for extended stretches.  And then the third came around and the Habs’ inability to hold leads nearly bit them again; they sat back and quickly allowed three goals to make it a one-goal game.  To their credit, they settled down late, eventually resulting in Christian Dvorak potting the empty netter to seal the victory.



# Player GP G A +/- PIMS SOG ATOI
8 Mike Matheson 2 0 1 -1 0 8 28:47
11 Brendan Gallagher 2 0 1 E 0 4 12:58
13 Mitchell Stephens 2 0 0 +2 0 2 9:04
14 Nick Suzuki 2 0 3 +1 0 8 22:51
17 Josh Anderson 2 2 0 -1 0 10 17:06
20 Juraj Slafkovsky 2 0 1 +1 2 5 20:45
21 Kaiden Guhle 2 0 1 +3 0 2 19:29
22 Cole Caufield 2 1 0 E 0 10 21:02
26 Johnathan Kovacevic 2 0 0 +2 4 2 14:58
28 Christian Dvorak 2 1 0 +1 0 3 16:43
40 Joel Armia 2 1 0 +1 0 5 14:58
47 Jayden Struble 2 1 0 +1 0 5 14:46
52 Justin Barron 2 0 2 +3 0 3 18:29
55 Michael Pezzetta 2 0 1 +2 0 0 8:01
56 Jesse Ylonen 2 0 1 +2 0 1 8:46
58 David Savard 2 1 0 -1 0 4 22:52
71 Jake Evans 2 0 0 -1 0 5 16:26
91 Sean Monahan 2 1 2 E 0 6 18:48


# Player Record GAA SV% SO
35 Samuel Montembeault 1-0-1 2.89 .905 0

Shootout – Skaters:

# Player G/ATT
8 Mike Matheson 0/1
11 Brendan Gallagher 0/1
14 Nick Suzuki 1/1
17 Josh Anderson 0/1
20 Juraj Slafkovsky 0/1
22 Cole Caufield 1/1
28 Christian Dvorak 0/1
40 Joel Armia 0/1
55 Michael Pezzetta 0/1
56 Jesse Ylonen 0/1
71 Jake Evans 0/1
91 Sean Monahan 1/1

Shootout – Goalies:

# Player SVS/SF
35 Samuel Montembeault 8/12

Team Leaders:

Goals: Sean Monahan (9)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (17)
Points: Nick Suzuki (25)
+/-: Evans/Kovacevic (+5)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (47)
Shots: Cole Caufield (114)

News And Notes

– With Tanner Pearson landing on IR for the next four to six weeks, the Habs recalled Emil Heineman from Laval.  He was scratched for each of the two games.

– GM Kent Hughes made an appearance on The Sick Podcast where he indicated that they plan to sign prospect Lane Hutson after his college season comes to an end.  That shouldn’t come as much surprise but that’s the first official communication on that front.  Hutson is likely to burn the first year of his deal right away so they’ll have to keep a contract slot open for him; Montreal currently sits at 46 out of 50 on that front.

– Nick Suzuki is now averaging 0.83 points per game, a 68-point full-season pace.  If that holds (or is improved upon), it’ll be the fourth straight season that he has increased his point-per-game average.

Last Game’s Lines:

Slafkovsky – Suzuki – Caufield
Evans – Monahan – Anderson
Gallagher – Dvorak – Armia
Pezzetta – Stephens – Ylonen

Matheson – Savard
Guhle – Barron
Struble – Kovacevic

The Week Ahead

Monday at Winnipeg – The Jets are in a three-way tie for the Central Division lead, an outcome that few would have expected 30 games into the season.  They’ve been quite stingy defensively with Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit off to good starts.  However, Winnipeg is without one of the NHL’s top goal-getters with Kyle Connor on the shelf for at least another month.

Thursday at Minnesota – It has been more than a decade since the Habs won in Minnesota, spanning nine games in total.  (If you’re curious, here’s the scoresheet from their last win if you want a trip down memory lane.)  The current iteration of the Wild has had a tough go of it this season, resulting in John Hynes taking over behind the bench.  Since then, they’ve won seven of nine.  Keep an eye on Brock Faber, the rookie blueliner who’s averaging nearly 24 minutes a night.

Friday at Chicago – The Canadiens will get their second and final look at Connor Bedard in this one.  The Blackhawks sit in last place in the NHL entering Sunday’s action with their rebuild still in full force.  Chicago will likely be without Seth Jones for this one as he was just placed on IR while top youngster Kevin Korchinski is on a leave of absence following the death of his father.  Chicago brought in Anthony Beauvillier after releasing Corey Perry recently but the change of scenery hasn’t helped much as he has just one goal and one assist in seven games with his new team.

Final Thought

As many expected, Montreal’s power play has turned back into a pumpkin after a brief stretch where it looked competent.  And while some tweaks are being made, there’s one that Montreal has been hesitant to try, putting two defencemen on one of the units.

At a time when many teams are going to four-forward units, going against the grain might seem a bit odd, if not counter-productive.  But Montreal’s blue line is a greater driver of the offence than pretty much any other team in the league, hovering around 30% of their goals in recent weeks.  If that’s the case, why not try to ride that and see if that helps for a short stretch?

Currently, Mike Matheson and Justin Barron are the two defencemen on the power play.  I’d suggest Kaiden Guhle as the third.  He has plenty of experience anchoring a man advantage from his junior days so it’s not like it’s foreign to him.  He’s a decent puck-mover with a reasonable shot and wouldn’t slow things down too much; he’d keep it moving which is part of the problem with the stagnancy the power play currently has.  Pessimistically, he’d be a lot better in coverage when they inevitably turn it over as well.

I’m not saying this is a permanent solution.  Eventually, the blueliners are going to start scoring less.  But right now, if the forwards aren’t getting the job done most nights, maybe it’s time to go old-school and try a second defender on one of the groups.  It might not work but it’s hard for it to be even worse than the current setup.  Why not give it a shot?