Montreal played one of their best games of the season Saturday night, despite falling 3-2 in overtime to the Colorado Avalanche. The Canadiens are continuing a five-game road trip through western U.S. Tonight’s loss came after a win in Dallas and an overtime loss in Vegas.
The return of Mike Hoffman and Tyler Toffoli has added composure and maturity to the entire Canadiens roster. They’ve both scored in the limited time they’ve been back in the line-up. The addition of Toffoli has been especially important. Toffoli has racked up points in all three games since his return.
Tonight, Toffoli made a sweet saucer pass to set up Nick Suzuki on a two-on-one for an assist to go with a his two goals in three games. Suzuki then fed Artturi Lehkonen with a perfect pass to get the Canadiens on the board after two periods trailing only 2-1.
The Canadiens tied it in the third and this time it was Hoffman who got the helper as Suzuki got his second point of the night. Suzuki had a terrific game. There are nights when he appears tired and the grind is too much, but all in all, this kid is going to be a terrific pro for years to come. The contract that Marc Bergevin gave Suzuki for eight seasons won’t be an albatross for Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes, like many of the other Bergevin signings they’ll have to unload.
That Montreal was even in the game was, once again, thanks to outstanding goaltending. Bad netminding would have made the games look horrendous. Samuel Montembeault has been carrying the load, but he will be out of the line-up now due to a wrist injury. He has a torn tendon that might just mean surgery.
Montembeault has waited his entire hockey life for a chance like this, but just as he truly starts to seize it, he gets injured. What a shame. Hopefully, he won’t be out for long. Word on that will come from the Canadiens organization soon.
So with the Montembeault injury, in steped Cayden Primeau to face a barrage of shots. Primeau rose to the moment holding Montreal in the game. He was particularly sharp in the first period when he faced 23 shots, stopping 22 of them.
Primeau has been looking better with every visit to the big club. He is tracking the puck nicely now and starting to look like the pro Montreal hoped he could be when Trevor Timmins took a flyer on him in the seventh round of the 2017 draft.
There hasn’t been a lot of good come to the Canadiens this season, but the club seems deep in net these days — even if Carey Price doesn’t return to the club. That’s not something they could have said before this season, when one injury would have been devastating.
Now they have three injuries and the goalie has been the strongest player of the night this week.
There was strong work from Ben Chiarot and David Savard in tonight’s contest. Many defensive pairings have gone into Denver and been destroyed by one of the best lines in the league. But the Habs pair was solid against Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen. Perhaps there were some scouts taking note. Chiarot is an unrestricted free agent and will certainly be traded. If someone got interested in Savard that would be a godsend to a rebuilding team.
What a run for the Canadiens on a road trip with three games, earning points against some of the better clubs in the entire league. Baby steps for sure, but they’re still steps.
The Canadiens have managed to stay in the game recently. It’s been thanks mostly to their goalies Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau. Montreal, who still haven’t won two games in a row this season, are on their way to their worst seasonal record in the over 110 year history of the club. They almost put another dubious mark in the books on Saturday night.
In the long history of the NHL, there has been only one team ever that allowed more than 50 shots in three straight games. The Kansas City Scouts allowed more than 50 in three games in March of 1976. It’s hard to believe that these Canadiens were on the verge of the same page.
The Scouts were shockingly bad. In their final 44 games in franchise history — a history that lasted only two seasons — the Scouts won only one game. Montreal certainly didn’t want to share a record with them.
However, Montreal allowed 51 shots in Dallas, 53 shots in Vegas, then 23 in the first period in Denver. It was looking like new, bad history would be made. But Montreal tightened up in the second and third periods, and instead of being routed with 50-plus shots, they were competitive again.
The Canadiens allowed 46 shots in Denver, but that included an overtime as well. Colorado has only one loss at home in their last 20 games. They’re a powerhouse.
The Habs are figuring some things out, so when they stay in a game against the second best team in the league, behind only Carolina, it’s more appropriate to ease up on the criticism.
It certainly was disappointing when the NHL announced that their players will not go to the Olympics in China this February. The Games start in less than two weeks, and the hockey competition will have players from every other league in the world, except the best one.
It’s not all disappointment for Canadiens’ fans though as they will get a chance to watch one of the Habs’ top prospects play for the American team. Sean Farrell was chosen to represent America. Farrell was a fourth round pick for the Canadiens and ever since that moment has been chewing up two leagues offensively.
He hit the century mark in points last season. He and Connor McDavid were the only players in the entire world, in pro and junior leagues, who got 100 points in the COVID-19 shortened season. Farrell is now at Harvard University where he continues to shine. The freshman has 19 points in 14 games, including eight goals. Farrell gets points wherever he plays. It will be interesting to see him among men at the Olympics, considering that his small frame is his greatest worry.
Not all the teams have been fully named yet. There is strong belief that Kaiden Guhle will be named to the Canadian team. Only three defenders have been named so far, and he is thought to be among the remaining choices to be revealed on Tuesday.
Some former Canadiens will be on the club, though, and they’ll be fun to watch. David Desharnais, Daniel Carr, Mark Barberio and Eric Staal will suit up for Canada.