Tuesday night marked the final match of a four-game road trip for the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs made their last stop in Seattle, where the Kraken are shocking the hockey world as one of the best teams in the NHL in the first third of the campaign.
However, the Canadiens surprised Seattle with a 4-2 win, and finished the trip with five out of possible eight points.
Every single game, the combination of Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield gives the hockey world a little bit of wow factor. The passes of Suzuki are sublime. The Caufield releases are exquisite. The pair seem to be sharing one mind.
They know exactly what the other one is going to do. In the second period, Suzuki had a clean look right in front of the net. He looked right at the goalie Martin Jones, put his shoulder down, looked up to shoot … and then passed to the left for Caufield to score an easy one.
Jones had no chance. He thought he was preparing for a Suzuki shot, but before he could even move to his right, Caufield had already put it into the top of the net for the Canadiens to take the lead.
The pair do this all of the time, and the statistics are there to back it up. That’s 15 goals on the season for Caufield. That projects to 47 goals for the year.
Suzuki’s numbers are also outstanding. With the assist, Suzuki is on pace for 91 points this season. Both of these numbers would be milestone firsts this century for the Montreal hockey franchise.
It wasn’t just those two who shone in this one. Jonathan Kovacevic scored his first NHL goal. Kirby Dach continued to be an excellent complementary piece for the number one line. Mike Matheson now has six points in his first nine games on the blue line for Montreal.
For those who want the Canadiens to get high value for their veterans who may be traded at the deadline, Josh Anderson had a terrific contest, scoring a beautiful goal upstairs on a great feed from Christian Dvorak.
Juraj Slafkovsky got the second assist on that tally with a good play winning the puck in the neutral zone and pushing it forward. That made the Canadiens fans feel some relief about their draft pick, considering the Kraken’s Shane Wright was having a terrific game at that point with his first NHL goal — and two other terrific chances to get a hat trick.
However, Wright was thwarted by Jake Allen, who put in his second excellent performance on this road trip. He stopped 45 of 46 shots in Calgary. This one wasn’t as busy, but Allen was sharp again finding a better version of himself after some tough starts a couple of weeks ago.
All in all, there were a lot of outstanding performances. After allowing far too much free space in Vancouver, the defenders tightened up nicely. The club was tired of playing back-to-back nights against a rested team, but it didn’t matter. Montreal won again.
The Canadiens continue to develop nicely as hockey players. They are learning how to play fast pace hockey with rapid transitions, and quick reads. They are learning how to play Martin St. Louis hockey.
They attained five points out of a possible eight in what was supposed to be an extremely difficult road trip. What’s difficult is to find something negative, so we won’t.
The Canadiens are starting to run into injury issues early in the season. The latest is a disappointing one whether a fan is on the better draft pick hunt or the fight for a playoff spot hunt.
Sean Monahan left the contest against Vancouver after possibly twisting his knee early in the second period. However, it could also be that he aggravated a foot injury that had him playing through it, but walking to the rink in a protective boot. The club is only saying that it’s a lower-body injury.
Head coach Martin St. Louis wouldn’t delve into what it is, but did say Monahan would return home and have more evaluation back in Montreal after the club concludes the road trip and flies back from the west coast.
It’s a bad injury for both bandwagons that fans are on. Either way, all fans are not happy with this one. If Monahan can’t play, then he can’t showcase his talents for a possible first-round draft choice in a trading deadline deal, or if he can’t play, then he can’t help the team win games.
And he sure seems to help the team win games. When Monahan skated his last shift in Vancouver on Monday night, the Canadiens were up 4-0 against the Canucks. In the 35 minutes he missed, the Canucks outscored the Canadiens 7-2.
Without Monahan, the club got dominated in the middle of the ice. It seems Monahan is a stealth Philip Danault. The former Habs centre simply didn’t get scored on. His line with Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher was scored on only three times in an entire season, albeit it was the shortened year because of COVID-19 with 56 games. Still, that’s a remarkable feat for a line, and that line was led by Danault.
Monahan seems to have the same footprint for the club as Danault. Monahan does a million small things well. Any club that takes a chance on him in a trade will be pleasantly surprised with the quality of his play.
The other players injured are David Savard and Brendan Gallagher. Both are key players on the Canadiens roster. Both Gallagher and Savard are not listed as having serious injuries, but termed day-to-day.