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In Hainsight: Slafkovsky Shines in 4-3 Win

September 28, 2023, 12:55 PM ET [1 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow me @KarineHains for all updates about the Montreal Canadiens and women's hockey

Just coming off a couple of games against the Leafs, the Senators rolled into town with a lineup that included more grit than talent. Still, the Sens managed to give the Habs a bit of a headache, especially in the second frame. At the end of the game though, the score was 4-3 Montreal and even though the result matters very little in the preseason, it was reassuring to see three of last year’s injured players get on the scoresheet. For Ottawa, Mathieu Joseph dazzled in the loss, he was the Sens’ best forward by a mile, scoring two goals and being a pain for the Habs. If he is indeed the player the Sens are looking to trade to solve their cap crunch and manage to ink Shane Pinto, the many scouts present on the Bell Centre’s press gallery were probably impressed by what they saw.

As for the Canadiens, a few players stood out in the win starting with Kirby Dach. While he’s got a big frame at 6’4’’ and 197 pounds, Dach doesn’t always play big, but he most certainly did last night. Flanked by Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Juraj Slafkovsky, the former Blackhawk was everywhere on the ice, creating plays, battling for the puck, winning 61.5% of his faceoffs and spending over 21 minutes on the ice. He didn’t score, but he played an excellent game and was instrumental in Slafkovsky’s goal.

Speaking of the young Slovak, he was very engaged in the game and didn’t hesitate to get in heavy traffic. He was rewarded with a goal which was met by a huge roar from the 21,000 fans in attendance at the Bell Center. The acclamation received seemed to galvanize his confidence and he shone all night long. He was much more solid on his skates, and he read the play very well, getting himself to the right areas at the right time. He was given an opportunity to shine with a talented center last night and he seized that opportunity with both hands. He was all smiles when he spoke to the media after the game.

Sean Monahan, playing his first game in nine months, found himself riding shotgun with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, but he was anything but a passenger. If there were any doubts about his health status, they were quickly dissipated by his performance. He spent over 20 minutes on the ice and scored an easy goal on a Caufield rebound. Meanwhile, Cole Caufield was also playing his first game since his shoulder operation, and he was in great form. The Canadiens’ sniper unleashed 10 shots on the night, five of which making it to the net and the last one getting through Korpisalo to give Montreal the win.

It wasn’t a perfect game by any means though, the Canadiens managed to take eight penalties which is way too many. If you want to see the silver lining though, the penalty kill got a lot of practice and only conceded a goal. Still, against a normal NHL lineup, such lack of discipline would have been costly, and Martin St-Louis was aware of that fact in his post-game presser.
Towards the end of his media availability, St-Louis conceded that even though lines aren’t settled yet, event are pushing things into place. Kirby Dach said himself that he enjoys playing as a pivot and the bench boss praised him, saying he has a very high ceiling. If what we saw last night happens again, Slafkovsky could steal a top-six chair alongside Dach and get what he said he was looking for, a meaningful role on the team.

Although the Senators turned up with a lineup that could clearly rough up his players, St-Louis didn’t feel the need to insert a bit of muscle in his lineup. He simply said his team needs to play hockey and he needs to try different combinations, that’s what the focus is on right now. Still, he was pleased to see his players had a pack mentality and were willing to stand up for an abused teammate. After Kaiden Guhle was the victim of a boarding incident, 5’11’’ Brandon Gignac immediately jumped on the culprit. Although Gignac isn’t a spectacular player, he’s having a great camp along with Jared Davidson. Gignac even scored the Habs’ first goal last night.

Today, the Canadiens will be back in Brossard for a 10:30 practice. The next game is tomorrow night against the Leafs and it’s safe to expect that a second wave of cuts could be coming sooner than later. Tomorrow’s tilt will be the halfway point of the preseason games and normally, things get more serious in the run up to the last couple of games…

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