November 13, 2022
Three games were on the docket for the fifth week of action for the Montreal Canadiens. On Tuesday in Detroit, Jake Allen put on a goaltender’s clinic and the Habs beat the Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout. The Vancouver Canucks were in Montreal on Wednesday and the Habs won 5-2 on the strength of a hot start. On Saturday night the Pittsburgh Penguins came to town and left without the win as the Habs claimed the 5-4 overtime victory.
When the time came to make a move to address a crammed roster, it worked out better than fans expected.
The crammed forward group finally had to be addressed on Monday and Kent Hughes opted to place Rem Pitlick on waivers. Michael Pezzetta would have been my choice, but many fans were unrealistically calling for names like Hoffman and Dadanov. After being claimed by the Habs last season, Pitlick had nine goals and 26 points in 46 games. Of course, he also had a ridiculous shooting percentage and iffy defensive stats.
Pitlick was not claimed, and on Tuesday he was sent to the Laval Rocket where he will be an important player and help a struggling team. He’ll also likely be back in Montreal when injuries hit, or when Hughes is able to move a few veterans. Why would a useful player like Pitlick clear waivers when so many teams are dealing with injured forwards? Perhaps that two-year one-way contract Hughes gave him in the summer helped. Perhaps Hughes is better at this than we are.
With Michael Matheson returning from injury very soon, another decision will await Hughes.
On Tuesday night in Detroit, some veterans performed better than some fans might be comfortable with.
On Tuesday night Jake Allen was an absolute rock star, ending the game with 41 saves, a .953 save percentage and 12 shorthanded saves. He was also strong in the shootout, and the result was a 3-2 Habs win. Fans are concerned that the goaltending duo of Allen and Samuel Montembeault may be making this team look better than it is, and may prevent a high draft pick in a draft that has franchise altering players. It’s a fair concern.
One day after fans were calling for Mike Hoffman to be waived, he had a two goal performance in Detroit, then scored again on Wednesday, and then added the overtime winner on Saturday. The truth is that Hoffman wasn’t a better player this week than he has been in many games this season, but the bounces went his way. Kudos to the coach for sticking with Hoffman – perhaps St. Louis is better at this than we are.
Strong veteran performances bode well for the Montreal Canadiens as the season wears on and trades begin. The better those veterans look, the better it will be for the Habs when Hughes starts cashing in.
“It should be a good game between two teams that want to prove to the League that we’re better than people say we are.” ~Bruce Boudreau.
One team got that message, Bruce. The Canadiens came out flying on Wednesday night and by about halfway through the first were up 3-0. The Canucks never really recovered, and the better team won with a final score of 5-2. What the heck is happening in Vancouver? It’s starting to feel like it did in Montreal last season, but without the long list of injuries.
The Dachter continues to make the Habs top line better.
The Caufield-Suzuki-Dach trio continues to work. On Wednesday, Dach had a two-goal game, one on a turnover he forced, and another he sniped off a perfect pass from Suzuki on a turnover created by Caufield. It’s working. On Saturday Dach was a force, in a few places that will never show up on the score sheet. Yes, he served up Hoffman’s game winner on a platter, and he was indeed implicated in the goal that tied the game. But Dach should probably have an assist on the Suzuki goal, and his work in front of the net was definitely a factor in the Caufield goal.
For those still worried about the plan for Dach at centre, I found this article by Nathan Ni of Habs Eyes on the Prize really interesting.
Is this the player the Chicago Blackhawks could find no role for in a rebuild? Or is it possible that the developmental atmosphere the Habs have created is simply making Dach a better player? One wonders if this is a strategy HuGo will use again. Are there other players out there who were drafted high, and have not lived up to expectations, and who may be acquired?
Younger legs are proving to be better in Montreal.
That was the story Saturday night. The Penguins came to town in the second of a back-to-back, and the Habs were rested. But beyond that, the Habs iced a crew of young legs that the veterans from Pittsburgh could not keep up with. It was obvious in the dominance over the Crosby line, and it was evident when Dach blew by Malkin for the game winner.
The captain just turned 23. His linemates are each 21. The defence group is already succeeding on the strength of youngsters, and the forward group will only get better as veterans give way to younger players. If the NHL is a young man’s league, the Habs are getting closer every day to owning it.
There are still a lot of games left in the season, but these young Canadiens are getting better every day, and perhaps fans had better get used to winning.