If this is how Canadiens games will look during this season, then sign me up.
The Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes opened the season last night in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes jumped out to a 2-0 lead, with goals by Lukas Wallmark and Martin Nečas. The Canadiens rallied, however, with a goal by Tomas Tatar on the power play, a goal by Jesperi Kotkaniemi which showed his amazing patience, and a goal by Jordan Weal off a feed by Paul Byron. 3-2 Canadiens heading into the third period. The Hurricanes started the third period with an onslaught of pressure and shots, culminating in a goal by Erik Haula to tie things up at 3. When overtime solved nothing, the shootout provided the answer for the Hurricanes, as Dougie Hamilton got the only goal of the shootout to give the Hurricanes the extra point. 4-3 Carolina is the final score.
Yeah, the Canadiens lost 4-3 in a shootout, but there are a lot of positives to take away from the game. Here are some thoughts on the game:
· The power play is currently clicking at 33.3%. Let’s keep it in that neighbourhood. The power play last night moved the puck well, but it still needs to shoot more.
· Anybody remember when Jonathan Drouin was having a lackluster preseason amid trade rumours? Me neither. He was amazing last night, setting up chances for his linemates left, right and centre.
· Anybody remember when Jesperi Kotkaniemi was having a lackluster preseason amid fears of a sophomore slump? Me neither. He had a great game, taking lots of shots, which is unusual for him. As well, he demonstrated, once again, his extreme levels of patience in his goal in the second period.
· Cale Fleury can really move the puck. He also has great hockey sense, as demonstrated by his breakaway in the middle of the game. Fleury realized that the Hurricanes had a delayed penalty, so he knew that he could rush deep into the offensive zone, causing a breakaway for him. As well, Fleury had some big hits at important moments. Overall, a good first game for the rookie.
· The other rookie, Nick Suzuki, was rather invisible. That’s to be expected; Suzuki’s not about to take risks in his first game. As he grows into his NHL role, he’ll become much more noticeable.
· Sebastian Aho did not score. I’m happy.
· Carey Price was Carey Price.
· One negative thing about last night: the Canadiens’ breakouts were brutal. The Canadiens, whenever they tried to pass the puck out of their zone, simply gave it away to a forechecking Hurricane player. This prevented the Canadiens from changing effectively, and resulted in a lot of tired defenders. If I’m Claude Julien, I’m spending every practice working on carrying the puck out of the defensive zone effectively, and not wasting time in the defensive zone when given a chance to clear. The Canadiens need to have this down pat if they want to stand a chance against the more potent offensive teams.
· One more reason to make the playoffs: Cole Caufield, the best Montreal Canadiens prospect in living memory, has stated that he wants to join the Canadiens, if they make the playoffs, after his first NCAA season: “My goal is to join the Canadiens at the end of the season if the team qualifies for the playoffs” Caufield told Guillaume Lefrançois of La Presse. This is very exciting news. First of all, even if the Canadiens don’t make the playoffs, Caufield intends to play with them next year. Second of all, if the Canadiens do make the playoffs, having Caufield in the lineup, with his amazing shot and potent offensive instincts, will do them wonders on any potential playoff run. I would put him next to Jesperi Kotkaniemi on the third line. Caufield would be able to help the Canadiens in the playoffs the way Cale Makar helped the Colorado Avalanche during last year’s playoffs.
Onward to Toronto, for this season’s first edition of Hockey Night in Canada.
Je déteste les Maple Leafs, tabarnouche!
Go Habs Go.
Signed, Le Bo