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In Hainsight: Coming up Just Short

February 1, 2023, 5:31 PM ET [85 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow me @KarineHains for all updates about the Montreal Canadiens and women's hockey

It was yet another false start for Montreal as the Senators took a 2-0 lead within 4 minutes of puck drop, but this time, the Canadiens didn’t give up, they fought their way back into this contest time and time again. Kirby Dach scored the Canadiens’ first goal on the power play, beneficiating from a Nick Suzuki rebound. Mike Hoffman buried his first goal of the year on the man-advantage in the middle frame to bring the Habs back within one after DeBrincat had given the Sens a 3-1 lead.

The Hoffman goal came five seconds before the end of the middle frame and it was an energized Montreal side that came out for the 3rd. Rafael Harvey-Pinard who had played brilliantly on the 4th line since being called up from Laval started playing on the top line alongside Suzuki and Anderson mid-way through the game and he immediately insufflated energy to the top unit, they had chances but it’s in the 3rd that they converted. RHP or Lavallagher, whichever nickname you prefer, scored a pair of goals to level the score twice before the Sens scored the game winner thanks to a deflection on a shot blocking David Savard with a little over a minute left, 5-4 Ottawa. Game, set and match, the Sens took the win and the Canadiens lost a 7th game in their retro reverse threads.

To be fair, the fact the Canadiens are even able to compete right now which such a depleted line-up is impressive. They’ve only got a pair of real NHL veteran defenseman (Wideman is a 7th D at best) and not many more threatening forwards. It was a great game for captain Nick Suzuki who’s been going through a dry-spell of late, he might not have scored a goal, but he did have a pair of assists, 5 shots and a 68.2% success rate at the face-off circle in nearly 23 minutes of ice-time.

Meanwhile, Kirby Dach had yet another strong game, scoring a goal, creating efficient zone entries and winning half of his face-off. There’s no denying that Dach’s performance has been really impressive in the last few weeks, but I find the “Suzuki will eventually be moved to the wing talk” premature. The Habs have yet to draft one of those top prospect centers and Dach is just starting to string good games together as a center, can we not just enjoy the fact that the Romanov deal is working out well?

After the game, Alex Belzile and Jesse Ylonen were sent back to the Rocket, but Harvey-Pinard wasn’t. Clearly, he’s impressed enough to earn more time with the Canadiens as Joel Armia and Jonathan Drouin are nearing a return. It’s a shame for Belzile who’s got 4 points in 5 games with the Canadiens this season, but Harvey-Pinard was even more impressive. In all honesty, once the trade deadline has come and gone and the Habs are done showcasing players they still have a slim hope of moving, Harvey-Pinard should be given a regular role with this team. He's not a top 6 forward on a healthy NHL team, but he can definitely be a bottom 6 hard-working guy who can provide secondary scoring. We’ve seen what he can do on the 4th line with minimal ice-time.

In a year with so many defeats and injuries, stories like Harvey-Pinard’s and Arber Xhekaj’s have been a much-needed breath of fresh air. Unlike Xhekaj, Harvey-Pinard was drafted but not before getting passed over for a couple of years. Before he finally heard his name called, Harvey-Pinard had even attended a Golden Knights rookie camp on an invite, a camp in which he skated alongside now Canadiens’ captain Nick Suzuki, all roads lead to Rome as they say. Now that Harvey-Pinard is on Martin St-Louis’ radar, I think he’ll be staying in the team’s plans. The coach likes a hard-working underdog more than anything else, probably because he was one himself and there’s no denying that his energy, work ethic and determination are just what’s needed as the organization tries to build both a winning culture and team.

The Canadiens now have a 10-day break since their bye week comes immediately after the all-star break, meaning that everyone will get a chance to get some rest, even Nick Suzuki who must head to the all-star game first. When they return, the Habs will be playing their last game wearing the retro reverse jersey, getting one last chance to break the curse as the kickoff family weekend at the Bell Centre.
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