In Hainsight: Taking on the Leafs
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The Leafs are coming to town without any of their big guns tonight, but they will be using Ilya Samsonov and dressing newly acquired heavyweight Ryan Reaves. Meanwhile, the Canadiens will be using two lines of NHL players and four blueliners who skated in the league last season.
That’s two games in a row for Sean Monahan, which makes sense since he hasn’t played in quite a while and he “needs his reps” as Martin St-Louis would say, but that’s a first game as a center as well. It will be the first game for Jake Evans who hasn’t been talked about lately but seems destined to play on the fourth line this season. On his wing, Brendan Gallagher will also be playing in a first game, does that mean he’ll land on the fourth line this season? It’s still too early to tell but it could happen if St-Louis stick to his three duos Caufield with Suzuki, Dach with Slafkovsky, and Newhook with Anderson.
On the blue line, Logan Mailloux will be skating on the first pairing alongside Jordan Harris and he spoke to the media in French this morning, mentioning the Leafs are his mother’s team and he will be happy to beat them.
As for Arber Xhekaj, he was asked about Wednesday’s game and the fact that he wasn’t dress in a very physical match-up, he said it would have been a good game to play, but that Ryan Reaves is dressed tonight and he’s a very physical player just like himself. It’s worth remembering Xhekaj has said he’ll try to be more selective this season and not fight as often. Everyone is aware of what Xhekaj can do with his fists, he’s got nothing to prove by dropping the gloves in a meaningless preseason game. Back in 2018, Nicolas Deslauriers got in a preseason tilt, was rocked and ended up in hospital, definitely not worth the risk.
There are still a lot of players at camp and cuts should be coming this weekend, some could even happen after tonight’s game for players who won’t be suiting up for two games in a row. The Rocket’s training camp starts on Monday morning so there should be important cuts by then, guys like Stephens, Parker-Jones and Beaudin’s time with the Habs should be coming to an end soon.
Yesterday, The Hockey News published an article highlighting the players who they feel will have the biggest progression this season and according to them, Cole Caufield will be the player who’ll have the biggest breakout season in the NHL. They even believe that the Canadiens’ sniper will reach 50 goals this year. Personally, I believe Caufield will eventually get to that milestone, but not just yet. I think 40 is a more realistic target, but we’ll see.
Also, the Lightning announced that its number one goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had underwent back surgery and would be out for eight to 10 weeks. This is big news on the goalie market, and had Hughes not traded DeSmith yet, it could have been interesting to see what the Lightning would have been willing to give for him. Some believe now’s the time to offer up Jake Allen, but the Bolts can’t afford to pay his salary if Vasilevskiy comes back during the season. Could they pounce on Cayden Primeau if he is waived? Perhaps, after all, it was against the Lightning’s farm team, the Syracuse Crunch that Primeau shone with the Rocket in the Calder Cup playoffs. However, there will be plenty of goaltender waived from now until the start of the season and chances are, they’ll want someone with more experience.