October 23, 2022
The second week of action for the Montreal Canadiens featured thee home games. On Monday night, with Jeff Petry and the Pittsburgh Penguins in town, Kirby Dach was the overtime hero converting a perfect pass from Sean Monahan for the 3-2 win. The Arizona Coyotes were next up on Thursday night, and the result was a thrilling 6-2 win. Then the Saturday night feature had the Dallas Stars visiting and handing the Habs their fist home loss of the season. The final score was 5-2.
If this week had a song, we’d borrow from the US Postal Service jingle. We deliver.
Jake Allen missed the game on Monday night for the delivery of his third child.
Congratulations to Jake and Shannon on the birth of their third daughter!
Samuel Montembeault got the start and he delivered a performance worthy of the win, but that wasn’t the only line-up up change for the Habs. Marty also delivered new line combos.
Monahan moved to the Suzuki line. Dadanov reunited with his preseason partners Dvorak and Gallagher. Dach back to centre between Drouin and Anderson. Slafkovsky and Hoffman dropped to the fourth with Evans. It all mostly worked, and the lines mostly stuck.
Guhle to Suzuki. Drouin to Caufield. Monahan to Dach. Three beautiful passes delivered and three beautiful finishes.
They’re still young and the rebuild is still on, but the work Kent Hughes has already done to increase the skill level on this team is noteworthy. There were two points of note for me. The timeout at the end of the game that led to the Caufield goal and the power play goal in overtime. Marty said it best in his post-game presser.
“With 2:23 to go, is it early? I don’t know. But I feel the faceoff was in the offensive zone, and you might not get another one of those. So I called a timeout, got organized, and the guys delivered.”
Down 2-0 going into the third, Suzuki delivered a clutch goal. They delivered on that drawn up play to end the third. Then they delivered again in the overtime.
The guys delivered.
On Thursday night the Habs delivered the beating to the Arizona Coyotes that they expected to get in Toronto.
What a game! Anderson jamming home the net-front goal. Caufield sniping a goal-scorer’s goal. Gallagher with a corner pick like we have not seen from him in some time. Slafkovsky scoring the first of his career in front of a stoked Bell Centre crowd, and then showing attitude to Josh Brown for the high hit. Suzuki channeling his inner Datsyuk on that penalty shot. Even the empty-netter from Monahan after they had given up two third period goals.
Never mind poor Zach Kassian getting absolutely clobbered by Xhekaj.
Here is what I loved about all of it. The guys delivered a message. We’re not those guys. We’re not lurking around the bottom of the standings, deliberately tanking and calling a college campus home. We’re the Montreal Canadiens – we might be kids and we might not be contenders for some time, but we’re going to play with pride and swagger.
Not all losses are created equally, and the Habs need not hang their heads over the one delivered by Dallas on Saturday night.
The Stars came into the contest with no regulation losses so far this season. Like the Canadiens, they’re riding the energy of a new coach with a new approach. It was a measuring stick match for sure, and Montreal measured up better than most of us expected. It was a loss, yes, but they didn’t lose because they played poorly. They just lost to a better team.
There is still much to celebrate in what the young Habs delivered Saturday night. One collision with Evans excepted, Harris played a fantastic game. Xhekaj showed he could deliver the goods offensively. Suzuki added another assist.
A better team came into their barn and this young team went out and competed, and delivered a money’s-worth performance for the crowd at the Bell Centre. As long as the kids keep delivering a glimpse of what they will become, there will be lots of patience for the rebuild in Montreal.
Is Martin St. Louis delivering this team from the bondage of rigid systems, one game at a time?
Man, these kids are fun to watch! Even in the losses, they’re fun to watch.
For a long time, being a 200-foot player was valued in Montreal, above all else. Unfortunately the translation of that principle was that reliability in the defensive zone would be prioritized over offensive prowess – every single time. Players were trained to make safe plays. We watched a lot of dump and chase. Those days are done.
When the Penguins came to town, Marty was asked how they would defend against them. His response was that they would play offense. What a novel idea! The players talk about being free to make plays. Marty talks about not wanting to over-coach the rookies, and how he wants them to “play free”. He coaches concepts, not systems.
The coach has a certain Yoda quality, and I’m not sure any of us who are not in that locker room can fully understand all of what he means when he speaks, or all of what he’s up to. But there is no question that they’re playing freer, it’s working, and it’s pretty fun to watch.
We deliver. Just for fun, you can listen to that jingle here.