The Montreal Canadiens at the .500 mark on the season continue to surprise the hockey world with their solid play. Four rookies on the blue line should be too many, but the first-year players are excelling and the results are coming along with their solid play.
The Canadiens were back at the Bell Centre for a Wednesday night affair against the Vancouver Canucks. This was no contest as the Canadiens won 5-2.
Nick Suzuki seems to score on every shot he takes. Only 55 seconds into the contest, on the power play, Suzuki fired that deceptive wrist shot for yet another goal. Suzuki has one of the best shooting percentages in the NHL. He upped his percentage to 27.3 with his ninth goal of the season. Suzuki has scored in six straight games.
Suzuki’s going to come down to earth at some point, but so far, he is on his way to his first point-per-game season. The best that Suzuki has done is a 61-point season. He’s crushing that total so far.
In 14 games, Suzuki has nine goals and eight assists for 17 points — that’s a pace of 100 points. If he were to attain a point per game, that would be spectacular and certainly signal the arrival of Suzuki as a first line centre in the eyes of everyone in the league; instead of just Montrealers.
One of the reasons that Suzuki is so successful is he is clicking so well with his linemates. The top three in the team in scoring are all from the same line. Cole Caufield has 15 points in 14 games and is one goal behind Suzuki with eight.
Kirby Dach has ignited the line since his arrival. Dach, with an individual effort for a goal, made it 3-0. He then wrapped up a close game with a far side shot for his second of the night to make it 5-2. Dach with 12 points — that includes nine points in his last six games.
It appears Dach is a significant steal for the new management team. It really is bad policy to give up on such a high draft pick at the age of 21, especially considering that high pick has suffered significant injuries to keep his development at bay for a time.
The Canadiens gave up the 13th pick overall to get Dach who was chosen third. The 13th pick overall is in the talent range of Frank Nazar. While the American Nazar is talented, it is hard to imagine that he is going to be as strong as Dach who is blossoming quickly in the Canadiens uniform into a primary talent with first line skills.
Mike Hoffman had good underlying numbers when he wasn’t scoring, but it felt like it was just a matter of time for a breakout. Time has come.
Hoffman has three goals in his last two games, and now four goals on the season. Hoffman has been a consistent goal scorer in his career. Give him options, and linemates, and he will score.
The Canadiens were the worst team in the league last season. They were expected by all of the experts to finish in the bottom five and be in the thick of the Bedard sweepstakes. However, the club has completely flipped that script.
Montreal, with back-to-back wins in Detroit and then at home against the Canucks, moved over .500 for the season. They’re middle of the pack in the NHL. The Canadiens played well for two periods, then fatigued in the final 20 after flying in late from Detroit the night before. They still coasted to an easy win.
The Canadiens have rookie defencemen like Arber Xhekaj, Jordan Harris and Kaiden Guhle looking like they’re going to be effective and talented blue liners for the next decade. They have a first line that looks as good as any line in the league, except any line that Connor McDavid is on. The Suzuki line has the point-per-game stats to prove their greatness.
This rebuild is going well, and this night showed just how well. There’s nothing to complain about.
It didn’t look like a powerful hit, but it caught Matt Luff off-guard.
Luff crashed into the boards when he was hit from behind by Juraj Slafkovsky. The result was bad for both of the players. Luff suffered what the Detroit Red Wings are calling an upper body injury, but insiders say it is a broken wrist. Luff is expected to be out three months.
Slafkovsky will be out for two games as NHL Player Safety decided that the rookie should be disciplined for the hit. That’s the second two-game suspension for the Canadiens inside a week. Josh Anderson was also suspended for two games for a hit from behind. At least you can say the league is consistent.
The suspension seems fair. It is not as if the actual violence of the event is at all serious, but it was made when a player was unaware and vulnerable. This is why so much damage can come from it — when boards meet the force of a falling player, the boards win.
Slafkovsky has nothing to change as a player but to be slightly more careful around the boards. The rookie Slovak was also knocked into the boards himself earlier this season. However, he was not injured, and no discipline was dished out.