In Hainsight: Different Venue, Same Result
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The Canadiens have been shut out twice so far this season and both times, it was against Todd McLellan’s Kings. While they’re not putting on much of a show, they are getting the results on foreign ice. With their 4-0 victory last night, they signed an 11th consecutive win on the road to start the season, breaking an NHL record. The shiniest part of their play has got to be their nearly blinding helmets, but they don’t care, they’re there to get the win and nothing else.
Although the final score was the same, the Canadiens did improve since the first meeting. In Los Angeles, they only had one “shot” on goal in the first frame, a clearing by Mike Matheson while down a man. This time around, they had a much more respectable 13 shots on goal, but the opportunist Kings still managed to score twice to take a 2-0 lead and against them, that’s a near impossible hole to get out of.
From then on, Los Angeles deployed its 1-3-1 formation and suffocated the Canadiens slowly but surely. After the game, head coach Martin St-Louis did mention the easiest thing would have been to dump the puck deep in their zone, but his team is trying to learn to play hockey. Try as they may though, the Habs could only muster seven shots in the second and a pathetic four in the third. They did ring two shots off the post, but coming close to scoring is worth nothing in hockey and a confident Cam Talbot was not shaken by the sound of his posts backing him up.
For the second game in a row, Juraj Slafkovsky skated alongside Suzuki and Caufield on the top line and he looked very good doing it. A fierce competitor in the battles for the puck along the boards and a constant forechecker, the young Slovak seems to be improving by the second right now. When he forces a turnover with his fore checking, he now takes the time to read the ice before passing the puck instead of trying a no-look pass with little odds of success. Twice last night he fed his linemates with brilliant passes, but they just couldn’t convert. Right now, Slafkovsky is more than a great complementary piece for the top line, he’s an important cog on it.
Another big-bodied winger had a great game last night, no it wasn’t Josh Anderson who seemed to have lost his hunger after scoring his first goal of the season in an empty net last game, but rather Quinton Byfield. The 2nd pick overall in 2020 is coming into his own nicely at 21 years of age, he’s a constant threat and seeing him turning on the jets to absolutely fly past Kaiden Guhle and beat Samuel Montembeault was impressive. If things go according to plan, perhaps that’s the kind of play Habs fans will be getting out of Slafkovsky in a couple of years’ time.
Byfield was named the first star of the game with two goals and an assist while captain Anze Kopitar had two assists and standout defenseman Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist. To put it bluntly, the Kings’ best players were their best players last night and it left very little doubt as to the outcome of the game.
The Canadiens have now lost seven games in a row against the Kings and the last Canadiens’ player to score against the Californian outfit was Denis Gurianov… Martin St-Louis won’t be mad this was the last meeting of the season against Los Angeles as he called them “the best team they’ve played this year”. The Habs will hold an optional morning practice at 11:00 in Brossard today, before facing the Sabres and the Predators this weekend.