The Montreal Canadiens went into New Jersey after a huge win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night. There was less emotion than a classic showdown with Toronto. They fell to New Jersey 3-2 in overtime.
It was the third game in the NHL career of Justin Barron and his first in Montreal. The 20 year-old defenceman was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in the Artturi Lehkonen deal. Barron is a first-round draft choice from 2020, taken 25th overall. The game did not offer a lot to look at, and for a defender that is a good thing.
Martin St. Louis made an intelligent decision to put Joel Edmundson on his left side. Nothing like the best defender on the club to get through those nervy first moments.
Barron looks like a very strong skater. He needs to grow into his body a little to be an NHL rearguard. Some of the strength battles didn’t exactly have a Shea Weber feel to them. With his skating, though, he has a chance to be a NHL regular. He also didn’t have any issues with his decision making. St. Louis must have liked what he saw from Barron as he had him on for two shifts in overtime, including the starting shift.
It has to be noted that after a rocket-like start for Josh Anderson on a line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, Anderson has fallen off for some reason. Anderson had six goals in his first six games. It seemed like the three were perfectly suited. Since then, however, Anderson hasn’t had a goal while the other two continue to pile up points.
So it was absolutely vital for Anderson’s confidence to get back on the scoreboard in this one. With a perfect deflection of a Jesse Ylonen shot, he Montreal on the board in the second period. That’s 16 goals this season for Anderson, which is a fine total on a team that has struggled to score this season. If he can hit 20, it would be a campaign that he could certainly feel good about.
The club refuses to give up these days. They fought until the end under their head coach. They tied it with the goalie pulled and under a minute remaining.
It was a terrific goal with three intelligent passes. The first great pass that started it was from Suzuki to Caufield, followed by a pass to the crease where the best pass of the entire play was the intelligent choice of Christian Dvorak to go backdoor and behind his back to Rem Pitlick who fired into an empty net.
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In the shootout, Caufield showed his finish by making his attempt look easy. Caufield calmly went five-hole. The release was so click. It’s odd to see five-hole look so unstoppable. Rem Pitlick followed up with his now familiar and seemingly hard to stop forehand move for a second tally in three shots.
It appeared the Devils were going to win it in the sixth round, but Mike Hoffman found the back of the net on a snap shot. New Jersey finally won it in the seventh.
The Canadiens stayed in the contest undermanned and fatigued. Young players got to develop their skills and add some minutes to their resumé. The club would have a bit of an offence issue, if Caufield and Suzuki weren’t providing. That needs to be addressed in the long run. For now, a proud bunch of players fell short in overtime, and that’s okay.
There were seven Montréal Canadiens prospects who played in the NCAA regionals this weekend. Now there are only two remaining. They’re not the two you would have expected. The big names like Sean Farrell and Jordan Harris lost early.
The only two that will head to the Frozen Four in Minnesota are Brett Stapley who doesn’t get a lot of notice, but has had a terrific season putting up big numbers. Stapley plays for the University of Denver, which advanced to next weekend with a 2-1 win over Minnesota-Duluth.
Stapley had 41 points in 39 games this year. He’s a seventh round draft choice and he certainly wasn’t given much of a chance to make the NHL, but perhaps he has been inspired by Notre Dame’s Jake Evans who has made it to the NHL — also as a seventh rounder.
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The other player to make it to the Frozen Four is the University of Minnesota’s Rhett PItlick. The organization apparently had a desire to get all the Pitlicks. They had zero not long ago. Now they have three. Minnesota advanced with an easy 3-0 win over Western Michigan.
The Frozen Four are Denver, Minnesota, Minnesota State and Michigan. The Wolverines will be favoured as they have an enormous amount of talent on their roster. Owen Power, Matty Beniers, Luke Hughes and Kent Johnson — the first, second, fourth and fifth overall draft picks in 2021 lead the charge.
Mackie Samoskevich, Johnny Beecher, and Brendan Brisson make it seven first round draft choices on a single college team for the first time in history. That’s a lot of talent on one frozen sheet on one team.