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In Hainsight: A Poor Showing

September 30, 2023, 2:09 PM ET [245 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow me @KarineHains for all updates about the Montreal Canadiens and women's hockey

After the Senators rolled into town without any of their star players earlier this week, the Maple Leafs did exactly the same yesterday, not a single player from their big four was on the ice. Meanwhile, Montreal had two lines made up of NHLers. Joel Armia, Sean Monahan and Josh Anderson made up the first line while Tanner Pearson, Jake Evans and Brendan Gallagher were the second combination. The bottom six was made up of prospects looking to find a chair in the Habs lineup at the end of training camp, and it was one of them, John Parker-Jones, who had the best opportunities on the night. As for the blue line, it featured Jordan Harris and Logan Mailloux on the first pairing, Arber Xhekaj and Gustav Lindstrom on the second and Nicolas Beaudin and Justin Barron on the bottom pairing.

There’s no two ways about it, this game was a snooze fest. There was obvious rust in the play of veterans who were skating in their first game such as Brendan Gallagher, Jake Evans and Joel Armia. As for defensemen hoping to crack the roster this season, Lindstrom and Barron did very little to convince anyone that they should start the year in Montreal. As for Logan Mailloux, he was on the ice for over twenty minutes and looked pretty good on the right side. The fact that Wideman is injured, and that Barron isn’t doing much so far is making Mailloux stand out almost by default. But one fact remains true; Mailloux needs some seasoning in the AHL before graduating to the NHL.

Up front, Josh Anderson was the only one to find the back of the net, his second goal in as many outings with helpers from Sean Monahan and Gustav Lindstrom. It wasn’t an easy game for many veterans, and social media was inundated with calls for both Gallagher and Evans’ heads. While I will admit that they both struggled, I think it’s important to put their performances in context. Both were playing their first game of the preseason and they at least looked like they were trying. Sure, they need to find their groove back and their synchronism, but you know that once the season starts, these two will be giving you their all. In his post-game comments, Evans told reporters that Toronto is a hard them to play against because they’ve got an attack which is like a circus. Granted, normally the Leafs can put up a magnificent show in the attacking zone and dazzle like a circus does, but last night, there were no magician, no lion, no contortionist and no clown dressed, well aside from Ryan Reaves but he brings another meaning to the word entirely.

For me, it was much more of a concern to see that once again, as has been the case far too often in the last few years, Joel Armia was completely disengaged and often looked like he was skating aimlessly. He was barely visible last season and he’s still got another year left on his contract after this one. Seeing him on the first wave of the power play in Cole Caufield’s spot was perhaps the best reminder that this was a preseason contest. It seems more and more obvious there’s nothing to be gained by showcasing Armia, everyone in the league knows what he can or can’t do and how big his cap hit is.

To be fair, it was a poor showing for pretty much every member of the Canadiens, although Cayden Primeau did well in net, where he stopped 24 of the 26 shots he received. He wasn’t really facing an NHL caliber attack though and he just doesn’t look very confident on the ice. The more I see him play, the more I feel like he’s still not ready to take another stride in his development. Jeff Gorton told La Presse yesterday if needs be, the Canadiens could carry three goaltenders, but that doesn’t seem like a viable option right now. Primeau needs to see plenty of action to develop and to improve his confidence, he just won’t be able to do that if he’s the third string goalie in Montreal. It feels like his place is still in Laval where he could battle with Jakub Dobes for ice-time.

Tonight, the Habs will try to put on a better show against what should be a stronger Toronto side. The line-ups aren’t out just yet, but logic dictates that Montreal should also be using more of its key elements, something we’ll all be grateful for. After the game, there should also be a lot of cuts since as mentioned yesterday, the Rocket training camp kicks off Tuesday morning.

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