Week 7 in One Word: Spread

November 25, 2022

The seventh week of action featured an odd schedule for the Montreal Canadiens. American Thanksgiving did a number on weekend games, but there were still three tilts on tap for the Habs. On Tuesday, they welcomed the Buffalo Sabres and the 7-2 loss is one they’ll want to forget. The Habs brought a more disciplined game to Columbus on Wednesday and the result was a 3-1 win. On Friday, a matinee game was on the buffet in Chicago and the Habs left with a thrilling 3-2 shootout win.

On Tuesday, Juraj Slafkovsky got a chance to spread his wings on a new line.

Unfortunately, the wing-spreading was very short-lived and he was back on the fourth line for the rest of the week, with a couple of shifts excepted. It’s been a tough slog for the kid. Drafted for his offensive prowess, he finds himself almost entirely with linemates whose skills are not precisely in the offensive prowess department. Some specific plays come to mind.

Friday in Chicago – Slafkovsky and Pezzetta are in the o-zone and turn the puck over, but Evans quickly regains possession. If Evans turns back for just two seconds and allows his wingers to tag up, another controlled entry could have been attempted. Instead, he immediately dumps the puck back in, completely unforced, and gives up possession.

November 17 in Columbus – Slafkovsky is skating through the neutral zone with a wide open controlled entry possible. He sees that Evans is about to go offside because he is anticipating the dump and chase, so he has no choice but dump it and give up possession.

October 29 in St. Louis – Slafkovsky is in possession of the puck in the offensive zone and Blues players are closing in on him. He feeds a perfect pass out of the scrum to where he expects his centre to be. Evans has already fled the zone assuming a turnover, and that’s what he got because he wasn’t there to receive a pretty sweet pass.

These are not intended to criticize Evans. Both players were playing consistent with their skill set – they just don’t fit together.

The coach decided to spread a little love in Montembeault’s direction.

Who expected Samuel Montembeault to be on the winning side of the stats spread with Jake Allen? The young stopper has looked good for the Habs, and on Friday he was rewarded with a second consecutive start. St. Louis was clear that Allen is still the starter but that Monty deserved the start in Chicago after his performance in Columbus. Spread the word. There might be a meritocracy coming to life in Montreal.

Two goalies deserving starts. Eight defensemen in a rotation. Too many forwards. Poor Marty is having to spread the ice time pretty thin.

The smiles were spreading pretty wide in Chicago with the Kirby Dach shootout winner.

Three shots. Three skilled players. Three goals. Can anyone even tell me when the Habs last got goals from all three shooters in the shootout? Has it ever happened? Kudos to the coach for giving Dach the chance to win the game with the Chicago fans booing him as he skated in. It was an ending made for a feel-good movie.

Dach was spreading it on pretty thick with that hand to the ear celly. I’m absolutely loving the swagger of these kids.

While Americans were still feeling the bloat of the Thanksgiving spread, the Habs were looking at the spread in the standings.

Statistics from recent NHL seasons tell us that American Thanksgiving is a significant benchmark in the NHL schedule. Specifically, since 2005-06 about three-quarters of teams in a playoff position on American Thanksgiving weekend tend to still be there when the regular season winds down. The opposite is also true – teams outside of a playoff spot have the odds against them to claw their way back in.

The Montreal Canadiens left Chicago with an 11-9-1 record and lurking just outside playoff contention. The players are confident and having the time of their lives. Fans are having fun too, but there is still widespread support for the Habs to sell and continue to build for the future. The executives are taking it all in and holding their cards close to their chests.

Bad news spreads fast.

It was a year ago that the Habs were in the middle of a few months of very bad news. In the week leading up to American Thanksgiving the Montreal Canadiens played three road games – losses to Washington and Buffalo and a win over the Penguins.

As the Habs were getting ready to hit the ice on Saturday night against Pittsburgh, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman broke the news that Montreal had permission to talk to Jeff Gorton, the executive we knew best for his work in rebuilding the New York Rangers. Before the first period was over, AGM Scott Mellanby had resigned. By Sunday afternoon, Gorton was named Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations. GM Marc Bergevin, AGM Trevor Timmins and Paul Wilson, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications, were all fired.

At the time, the situation looked very grim. But man, what a defining weekend for the Montreal Canadiens. Since Gorton’s arrival, and the subsequent arrival of Kent Hughes and Martin St. Louis, optimism has been spreading like wild fire. A year later, the Canadiens are still outside looking in from the playoff picture perspective, but they’re an exciting young team on the upswing under competent leadership.

And for this, we give thanks.

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

One thought on “Week 7 in One Word: Spread

  1. Good management shows up on the ice.

    When HuGo arrived they found a relatively well stocked cupboard of prospects and related assets (principally draft picks).

    As you noted in your comment about having 3 elite scorers score in the SO in the win over the Hawks, talent-wise, this season’s team appears to be well ahead of most if not all Habs teams (except the healthy version of the team which recently went to the SCF) since, when, 1979…??

    The best news in my view is that our new management lead by HuGo appears to know what kind of team is required to contend in modern NHL, and is masterful at identifying the necessary talent mix. As I said, as part of their efforts so far, HuGo have leveraged the not insignificant value left by MB.

    Think of the relative costs of adding Allen, Xhekaj, Wideman, Edmundson, Kovacevic, Montembault, Harris, Monahan, Suzuki, Anderson, Dach and Armia to our 23 man roster… (almost eliminating the pain of, pre HuGo, our relative incompetence with 1st round picks).

    And then think about our upcoming cap situation.

    And then think about our prospects.

    And then think about our 2023 draft picks.

    And then think about HuGo captaining the ship.

    Well done so far Mr. Molson. A very nice fresh start.

    Liked by 1 person

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