November 5, 2022
The fourth week of the 2022-23 season for the Montreal Canadiens featured three games. On Tuesday their road trip continued and, a week after losing to the Wild at home, they lost 4-1 in Minnesota. Thursday saw the Habs in Winnipeg to face the Jets and a 3-2 loss in overtime was the result. They were finally back at home on Saturday to greet the Vegas Golden Knights, and the final result was a 6-4 loss in a game where Jake Allen deserved better.
The rookie defensemen continued to enjoy a prolonged stay in the line-up, despite the return of Joel Edmundson.
Edmundson returned, after another prolonged stay on the Injury Reserve list, and we waited to see which of the rookie defensemen would sit. We all knew that meritocracy’s finger was pointing to Chris Wideman, but fans of the Montreal Canadiens are not used to veterans taking the back seat to rookies.
Decision after decision, we’re coming to the realization that there’s a new sheriff in town, and I don’t mean Arber Xhekaj. Sure, Wideman was back in on Saturday and a rookie sat. Still, it was the rookie they claimed off waivers to place-hold so that the prized prospects could take their best developmental path.
A trip to Winnipeg ended in prolongation, and the first loser point of the season.
For me, the game against the Jets was one of the most entertaining so far this season. Samuel Montembeault was fantastic, and Nick Suzuki was having the kind of game that makes you hope he enjoys a prolonged career in Montreal. It was back and forth – the kind of game that begged for prolongation.
The game didn’t end the way the Habs hoped but the road trip ended as well as anyone could have hoped for. Two wins, a loss, and an overtime loss. Five points in four games is nothing to sneeze at in any road trip, but for a team that spent a prolonged period in the NHL basement last season it’s brilliant.
Evgeni Dadanov missed the confrontation with his old team on Saturday due to a prolonged virus.
After this summer’s big trade, neither Dadanov or Shea Weber were in the line-up. I’m still loving that deal.
With Edmundson’s return, a roster trim was necessary and it was a nasty virus that allowed Kent Hughes to prolong the decision. But they can only kick this can down the road for so long and a decision is imminent.
There is no doubt that Hughes has tried to trade one of his misfit forwards, and I’m sure he’s realistic about a return. The league’s cap environment is tighter than a frog’s ass, which I presume to be waterproof, and a big contract trade would likely necessitate salary retention on the Canadiens’ part. If I were Hughes, I’d be reluctant to retain this early in the season unless a desirable asset was coming back. The ability to retain is a precious asset at trade deadline, and one I wouldn’t be giving up to move one of these guys.
If an acceptable trade doesn’t materialize, the choice is simple for me. Michael Pezzetta will not feature in the Habs future, and he’s barely featuring in their present. He’s not going to fetch a deadline return. Pezzetta might be a sentimental favourite, but does it really move the dial if he’s waived, and claimed by another team?
With the number of odd man rushes the Habs give up, they should devote a prolonged practice to learning to play the two-on-one.
Under Luke Richardson the Habs employed the faceplant method on the two-on-one. In the faceplant method, the defender plays neither the shooter nor the passer, glides back into his goalie, and finally drops into a faceplant so that he cannot see the puck in the back of his own net.
Richardson is gone, and I can only recall one bona fide faceplant so far this season. But that isn’t to say they have perfected the two-on-one. On Saturday night, Edmundson added a bad pinch to a series of errors on the night – apparently a prolonged absence leaves one rusty – and Harris played neither the shooter or passer prior to the red light being engaged. Now is as good a time as any to teach some fundamentals.
After a prolonged search for a winger to complement Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach seems to fit just right.
It’s early, and I know Dach was acquired with a plan for him to be the second line centre. Four games with that trio together and I’m counting 3 goals and 4 assists for Caufield, 5 goals and 3 assists for Suzuki, and 1 goal and 6 assists for Dach. That is a legitimate top line on any team.
The issue, of course, is that the other three lines have been graveyard quiet. Here is the hurty part – I’m not confident the other lines are coming together until some of the veteran overstock is offloaded. I suspect the solution for this season is to give Slafkovsky some time with Monahan, but the coach is taking his time with the kid. I suspect Marty is also pleading with his GM to not prolong his veteran juggling act.
The Habs are 5-6-1 with 12 games done. The kids are delivering exciting games while the veterans are ensuring they come up short. That’s the perfect formula for drafting high and keeping fans engaged. We can all see the rebuild won’t be as prolonged as we feared.