In Hainsight: Team Effort Leads to 4-2 Win Over Kraken
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Montreal has been having issues with the first period all season long. Prior to last night’s game, the Canadiens had only scored 13 goals in the first frame, the worst record in the league. On Saturday, Martin St-Louis’ men had forgotten to show up at the initial puck drop, but they were on time last night. Backstopped by Samuel Montembeault, who was great in net in his first game after his contractual situation had been fixed, the Habs got some much-needed secondary scoring while the first line impressed.
For the second time this season, Juraj Slafkovsky was promoted to the first line alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield and this time, the result was impressive. The young Slovak was sharp last night, he looked hungry and was aggressive on the forecheck with good results.
Furthermore, he linked up nicely with his linemates and didn’t look out of place at all. Perhaps the 11 games he had played on the same line as Caufield helped, Slafkovsky always seemed to know where Caufield would be and while the newly formed line didn’t score, it looked very promising.
If Montreal got the win, it was thanks to goals from three forwards who hadn’t scored in ages. Sean Monahan, who hadn’t found the back of the net in 14 games, scored twice. His first came off a brilliant feed from Josh Anderson that the Ontarian only had to tap-in on the doorstep. His second was on the power play, where he completed a tic-tac-toe initiated by Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. They tried it once and the shot was blocked, but they then ran the exact same play seconds later and Monahan buried the puck in the net. It’s worth noting that Slafkovsky was also on the first man-advantage unit last night, something that’s sure to boost his confidence.
In the second, Tanner Pearson also finally scored after being held off the scoresheet for 19 games. The tally came at five-on-five with assists from Dvorak and Gallagher, who was skating in his 700th game on the night. In the last quarter of the frame though, Seattle awakened and dominated play outrageously. The Kraken pinned the Habs in their own zone for nearly three minutes and with exhausted Canadiens on the ice, they were able to score their first goal.
Then, in the third, thanks to a Mike Matheson penalty, the Kraken scored a second and started to believe they could come back. Thankfully for the Canadiens, Samuel Montembeault shut the door and in the last minute of the game, with the Kraken using an extra attacker, Josh Anderson finally got his first of the season in his 25th game. I’ve rarely seen an empty netter be celebrated like that, with the goaltender joining in the celebration. Final score, Canadiens 4, Kraken 2.
It's hard to deny a simple fact, with Montembeault in net, this Canadiens’ team looks more confident and plays with purpose. Now that his contractual situation has been sorted out, it would make sense to give him the net more often. I understand the team is weary of losing Cayden Primeau on waivers, but it wouldn’t be a disaster anymore knowing Montembeault is there for the next three years. The Canadiens have now got a goaltender to play until one of their prospects is ready to step up. I know, most people would like to see Jake Allen moved, but with that cap hit for yet another year, that seems highly unlikely. The veteran also has a seven-team no trade list which complicates matters even further.
Yesterday, the Canadiens also took Arber Xhekaj off the injury list, but the blueliner was assigned to the Rocket. The team has let it be known that it isn’t for conditioning purposes but I find it hard to believe that when he’s played a couple of games and found his game legs back, he won’t be called up. Granted, Jayden Struble has done very well since joining the Habs, but I believe Xhekaj still outperforms Gustav Lindstrom, even if the latter has scored two goals in the last four games. Defensively, he is a liability, and he doesn’t bring the physicality this team needs.
On Thursday, the Canadiens will host the Kings at the Bell Centre, an opponent much stronger than the poor Kraken and Martin St-Louis’ men would do well to show up on time once again. To beat Los Angeles, nothing short of a full 60-minute effort will do.