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After a solid win in Nashville on Tuesday, the Habs looked to end their road trip on a high note in Carolina on Thursday.  They were in it for a while but the Hurricanes eventually pulled away and collected the 4-1 victory.

There were no trade deadline-related scratches for the Canadiens although Michael Bunting was for the Hurricanes as they’re expected to land Jake Guentzel.  Meanwhile, Martin St. Louis only made one change to his lineup with Samuel Montembeault getting the nod in goal after Jake Allen beat the Preds.  The rest of the team lined up as follows:

Caufield – Suzuki – Slafkovsky
Roy – Newhook – Armia
Gallagher – Evans – Anderson
Pearson – Harvey-Pinard – Ylonen

Matheson – Guhle
Xhekaj – Savard
Struble – Harris

10 Thoughts

1) Not Hab-related but it was nice to see Frederik Andersen back out there.  If you’re not familiar with what happened, he had a deep vein thrombosis and subsequent pulmonary embolism back in November and there were concerns as to whether he could play again.  A couple of delays in his attempts to return soon followed and he wound up being out for more than four months.  If nothing else, perhaps Montreal was hoping that he could be a little rusty.

2) It turns out Andersen was a little rusty.  After what could generously be called a dull start for both sides, Carolina turned it over in their own end near the blueline with Alex Newhook getting the puck.  He quickly slid it to Joshua Roy who skated to the other side of the line and sent a seeing-eye shot past Andersen, one he’d almost certainly love to have back.

3) Montreal had a good opportunity to double the lead when they got a power play a little before the midway mark of the period.  The first half was a four-on-three, a situation they clearly don’t practice too often.  Andersen didn’t have his stick for most of the advantage either but the Habs didn’t get much on goal.  Nick Suzuki had a post but it felt like an opportunity squandered.

4) While Juraj Slafkovsky and Cole Caufield have made strides defensively, there’s still a lot of work to do.  That was evidenced by the first-period equalizer from Brady Skjei.  Andrei Svechnikov did a hand-off at the blueline with Montreal’s youngsters in coverage.  They didn’t switch, nor did Caufield leave a lane for Slafkovsky to stick with Skjei.  Then, to make matters worse, Slafkovsky didn’t exactly go full speed after Skjei, giving him the time and space to skate to the net and beat Montembeault.  If you want to stay man-to-man, fine, but don’t effectively run a pick on your teammate and then have the teammate not hustle to catch up.

5) Although the Habs didn’t score on an early power play in the second, I want to highlight it for mixing it up.  Caufield is usually in a one-timer position and teams know they can overplay it.  But a couple of times, he didn’t shoot, instead driving the net.  The first attempt caught the post and the second was stopped, leading to a glorious chance for Alex Newhook that just missed.  I like that they didn’t just do the usual approach like they did on their opportunity late in the frame.

6) After not scoring on that chance, they paid for it.  A lost board battle led to a turnover and from there, the Habs got flat-footed.  Jack Drury’s shot was stopped but Montembeault couldn’t quite corral the rebound.  The puck bounced into the slot and Stefan Noesen beat David Savard to it to tap it in.  Tough end to what was a pretty good period overall from the visitors.

7) Roy looked like he tied it up in the first minute of the third period.  He made a nice toe drag to get around a defender and got an initial shot off that was stopped.  The rebound came out to him and he was able to slide it past Andersen.  There was a reason the weak shot got through as Newhook bumped into Andersen.  The call on the ice was no goal and the Habs elected not to challenge.

8) The turning point in this game was a Montreal power play soon after that.  It was a terrible one all around.  Seth Jarvis had a breakaway that was stopped before whiffing on a two-on-one seconds later.  The Hurricanes got another two-on-one later in the advantage as well.  No goals were scored but Carolina woke up after the sequence and they were all over the Canadiens the rest of the way.

9) The Hurricanes eventually scored on one of their rush opportunities with under five minutes left when Skjei got around Caufield who was the lone defender back on a four-on-four situation and beat Montembeault on the breakaway.  How Caufield was the only one back in that situation was a bit odd.  Defensive breakdowns were an issue in the third.  Andrei Svechnikov capped off the scoring with the empty-netter.

10) Let’s talk about the trade deadline.  I’m not expecting a busy day from the Habs.  There isn’t a big market for Jake Allen (who was technically a healthy scratch) and I’m not sure there’s a team willing to pay the high asking price for David Savard.  A couple of players that I suspect could be on the move are Jesse Ylonen and Johnathan Kovacevic.  Ylonen could make sense in a swap of young NHL roster players who have stagnated and could benefit from a change of scenery while Kovacevic’s cheap contract for another year could give him some decent trade value.  I figure management will want to get Justin Barron back up and if they don’t move Savard, dealing Kovacevic could make that happen.

HW Habs 3 Stars

1st Star: Samuel Montembeault – This wasn’t a game where you could say that the netminder was the only reason it wasn’t close.  For the first two periods, especially, the Habs were right in it.  But Montembeault faced a fair number of quality chances in this one and did pretty well against one of the top teams in the East.

Stats: 3 GA on 39 shots, 3.02 GAA, .923 SV%

2nd Star: Joshua Roy – He scored Montreal’s only goal of the night and the one that was called back.  I don’t have much to comment on beyond that, however, as his playing time was once again quite limited, especially in the first two periods.  He saw more ice in the third with his line having some success.  Despite that, he’ll be assigned to Laval at some point Friday to make him playoff-eligible down there.

Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 3 shots, 2 takeaways, 12:30 TOI

3rd Star: Kaiden Guhle – More of an ‘honourable mention’ type of selection, Guhle has had a rough go as of late playing on his off-side.  There were still some struggles but this was his best game in a little while.  He was quiet and efficient and those are two adjectives that are good for him as it means he’s getting the job done.  He did that for the most part against an aggressive forechecking team.

Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 1 shot, 5 blocks, 20:14 TOI