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After a disappointing Saturday night against the rival Maple Leafs, the Habs were right back in action at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. After Montembeault and Primeau split the game on Saturday, I was a bit surprised that Primeau was the goaltender on this night considering the quality of the opponent. It mattered little as the Habs were outmatched for most of the night as the losses continue to pile up, this time by a 5-2 score against the powerful Rangers. 

Montreal’s Lines

Cole Caufield — Nick Suzuki — Juraj Slafkovsky
Brendan Gallagher – Alex Newhook – Joel Armia
Tanner Pearson – Jake Evans — Josh Anderson
Michael Pezzetta — Colin White — Rafael Harvey-Pinard 

Mike Matheson — David Savard
Jordan Harris – Johnathan Kovacevic
Jayden Struble – Justin Barron 

Cayden Primeau 

10 Thoughts

1) The Habs were on their heels to start this one which forced Primeau to continue his strong play from Saturday night. For a team that spent the after-match stating that it wasn’t Montembeault’s fault, they sure played similarly in front of the Primeau a few hours later. 

2) Montreal’s top line continued to get some support in effort as the Newhook-Armia duo continues to play some strong hockey. This line was particularly effective in generating some momentum in the second half of the period to get the Habs going. 

3) We all know goal scorers are streaky and that certainly applies to Cole Caufield. The small winger continued to score, even on fluke plays as he got a rebound and bounced a puck off Igor Shesterkin from behind the net. When you’re hot, you’re hot. 

4) Much like the first period, the Rangers came out strong in the second period only to find themselves facing a figurative wall in Primeau. This allowed the Habs to find their legs again and get some momentum back as the period reached its median. 

5) Unfortunately, a Slafkovsky tripping penalty in the offensive zone proved costly for the Habs. Off the faceoff, the puck bounced around the zone before it found Mika Zibanejad where he bounced it off both Armia and Matheson to even the score. That goal made the Habs hesitant as Primeau had to stand tall yet again. 

6) With New York in complete control, Chris Kreider went after Primeau, and the scrum ensued. Kreider had yelling matches with more than one Hab and I sincerely don’t get it as the sequence woke up the Habs. The Canadiens started skating and playing physical which finally yielded a power play with 30 seconds left in the period after a Will Cuylle trip. 

7) The third started with the second half of the Habs’ first power play and it yielded little outside of a Slafkovsky shot that appeared threatening. This was a turning point as the Rangers were then handed an advantage of their own on an Armia hooking minor. They once again made the Habs pay for their lack of discipline as Kreider tipped home an Artemi Panarin point shot. 

8) The Rangers put the game away two minutes later when Panarin exposed Matheson’s defensive play. He deked out Matheson in zone entry, sent a pass to Alexis Lafreniere, and then beat Matheson for positioning in front of the net as Lafreniere made a beautiful pass across the zone right to Panarin who then was patient to get around a sprawling Primeau to make it 3-1. 

9) At that point, the Rangers were content to kill plays and the clock. After doing it successfully for six minutes, Matheson was able to complete an excellent stretch pass that sent in Newhook alone on Shesterkin. Newhook fired home a shot to give the Habs life with eight minutes to play. 

10) It was short-lived optimism though as Anderson was guilty of yet another egregious defensive zone turnover that resulted in a second Zibanejad goal as he was left alone in front of Primeau. Lafreniere then added an empty-net marker with a little more than a minute to play to seal the deal. 

HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars

1st Star – Cayden Primeau 

What an interesting season this has been for the young netminder. With expectations diminished from fans and media, Primeau came out of the gate strong, then dipped around the holidays, only to progress even better than his start since the Allen departure. Seeing his progression this season will assuredly renew hope in this young player, but that is sure to come with renewed expectations. It will be interesting to see where his games go next season with the return of those expectations. 

Stats: 41 saves on 45 shots, .911 save %, 4.06 GAA, 59:05 T.O.I. 

2nd Star – Alex Newhook 

Much like Primeau, what lies ahead is far more interesting that what is behind him for Alex Newhook. Like Alex Galchenyuk before him, Newhook is a centre that appears to be taking off now that the games don’t matter for the Habs. He’s also taking off as a centre, even though many would argue that he was playing fine as a winger earlier in the season. Despite the offensive surge, he continues to struggle defensively, a fact that has been mitigated by the presence of Armia on his wing. So how to move forward? Is he better suited to stay with Armia as the third line pivot? Or will the team opt to return him to the wing to play with Kirby Dach? Should be an interesting road ahead for a player that is intriguing for the team. 

Stats: 1 goal, -1, 1 shot, 1 hit, 19:17 T.O.I. 

3rd Star – Cole Caufield 

Caufield hasn’t been as prolific this season as many expected. As per usual with a scorer, they have come in bunches. He’s hot right now as he even managed to score from behind the net on this night. Can he become more consistent thanks to the strong play of the two players on his line that will undoubtedly open more room for him? Either way, he’s been much improved away from the puck, so his role on that top line is surely not in question moving forward. 

Stats: 1 goal, even, 6 shots, 20:19 T.O.I.