A quick two-game road trip will find the Montreal Canadiens making a Saturday night stop in Toronto, with the Maple Leafs looking for revenge, but before that they faced the New Jersey Devils in Newark.
Montreal took advantage of New Jersey’s abysmal defensive zone coverage as Christian Dvorak had a three-point night in a 7-4 win.
It’s the same story just about every contest these days for the Canadiens: sit back and enjoy the excitement of two young kids as they turn into stars right in front of our eyes.
It’s the Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield show coming soon to an arena near you. First period was only 4:35 old when Suzuki rips a shot into the top corner for his 17th of the season. Caufield offered a helper on that one.
About 10 minutes later, the two reversed roles. This time it was Suzuki finding Caufield streaking for a clear cut breakaway. Caufield made his finish look so easy that it doesn’t even feel like he had a goalie to beat. It was merely a formality that Andrew Hammond was in the net trying his best, but was beaten before he actually moved.
That’s 16 goals in the last 26 games for Caufield. The pace that he has set since Martin St. Louis became head coach makes him a 50 goal scorer in his first season.
The sad part is instead he won’t even be in the Calder Trophy conversation. He got only one goal in his first 30 games, and that cost him a chance at the top rookie award. He can’t catch up to Michael Bunting, Moritz Seider, Trevor Zegras or Lucas Raymond. It’s a shame. He could have won it with even a halfway decent start.
Suzuki and Caufield will be together for a long time to come. They need to find a winger that is a third as comfortable as the first two are with each other.
Logic tells you that these two players need a puck-winner. They need an F1 who battles for the puck and wins it for them. That should have been Josh Anderson, but he faltered after a fast start. The issue could be that Anderson is injured or it just might be that after he wins the puck, he does not distribute it well enough. Passing is not the strongest aspect of Anderson’s game.
Here’s a suggestion for the winger on the other side: Juraj Slafkovsky. He’s ranked top five in the draft. He’s big and strong with a terrific shot and he passes well, too. He’s a left winger with a left shot, so you would think that might be the same spot that Caufield is playing, but St. Louis likes his wingers on their off side so they see more of the net when they shoot.
It would not be difficult to put Slafkovsky on the right. That would be a formidable line of first round draft picks.
This is down the road, but it’s worth thinking about, if the Canadiens don’t win that lottery to take Shane Wright to fill the obvious need at the centre position. The feeling here is that the other two centres who are ranked top five, Matt Savoie and Logan Cooley, because of their size, will just end up on the wing anyway — meaning take the best player available between picks two to five because all three are going to end up being wingers.
It’s enjoyable to think of the Canadiens having a first line that can provide excitement every night, instead of being impressively responsible on defence. That’s what the fans come to the rink for — the beauty of a Suzuki to Caufield link-up.
The fourth line of the Canadiens was dominated by the Devils fourth line. Jesse Ylonen with Ryan Poehling and Tyler Pitlick were destroyed by Andreas Johnsson, AJ Greer and Mike McLeod. Ylonen had been having some nice contests. Poehling had been strong going to the net as well.
Tyler Pitlick likely isn’t an NHLer. Still, it was disappointing to see the fourth line have such a hard time. The organization will have to get some depth back that is lost when trades are made in a rebuild.
Hopefully, players like Joshua Roy and Sean Farrell will turn into NHL players as the organization hopes. Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes are also high on Emil Heineman who was recently acquired from Calgary. Heineman signed his three-year entry-level contract three days ago and will report to the Laval Rocket.
Help is on the way, but at forward, one can see how shallow the club depth is at the moment.
Fans were a little disappointed that they didn’t get a third straight game to watch Jordan Harris in the NHL at the Prudential Center. Harris watched the game from the press box, but before you get the idea that the coaching staff thought there was something wrong with the first two games for Harris, this is what Martin St. Louis had to say:
“We have a lot of guys here that need to touch the ice in game action and you can take this opportunity now for Jordan to watch a game after playing a couple, and see himself in certain situations that happen, and he might think of it differently after playing two games, and how he thought of it prior to playing those two games, and from him watching tonight, how he would handle those situations.”
St. Louis went on to stress that there is nothing that bothered him about Harris in the first two contests.
The battle next year for spots is going to be very interesting. Corey Schueneman, Justin Barron, Kaiden Guhle and Jordan Harris will likely fight for three spots available after Joel Edmundson, David Savard, Alexander Romanov take the other three.
Marc Bergevin loved veterans when he was at the helm, so he would have likely offered spots to Chris Wideman, and Kale Clague this summer. It will be interesting to see what Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton do with the two vets; whether they believe their experience is needed.
It’s going to be enjoyable to watch this build.