A rematch of the West Conference final with both Montreal and Las Vegas under .500 so far this season. Life comes at you fast. Montreal put together its most dominant game of the season, yet they somehow managed to lose 5-2 to Vegas. The shots on goal overall were 38-18 for the Canadiens, but this season, nothing is easy. Montreal’s record is 3-10.
The Canadiens may have a star in their midst. It’s too early to say because this could just be a hot spurt, but if this is a true indication of the calibre of play that Nick Suzuki can bring, this is going to be outstanding. Suzuki looks fantastic. The numbers back up the hyperbole.
In seven periods of hockey, the Canadiens had scored seven goals. He was in on all seven goals. For the first time in his career, Suzuki scored in three straight games. On the first two goals that the Habs scored against Vegas, Suzuki got one goal and one helper.
On the season, the numbers are also strong. After not getting a point in his first four games, Suzuki now has 12 points in 13 games this season. For a team that scores as little as the Canadiens do, to have a point-per-game player is hard to believe.
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And something fun is happening. When Suzuki gets the puck, you perk up. You watch knowing something special could happen. It’s not Connor McDavid, of course, but it’s a start for Montreal fans to find a reason to get at all excited with this season.
Be thankful for Suzuki because it is going to be extremely difficult for the excitement to come in the form of a playoff chase. Shockingly, Montreal already has to finish the season 45-24 to get to 96 points which usually is enough to earn a post-season berth. That number is not attainable. Remarkable how much a poor start to the season can be crushing to the overall fortunes.
However, enough of that grim tale, back to Suzuki. When you throw an eight-year deal at a player, he better be worth it. Your organizational success is tied to his success. He needs to respond to that commitment by showing his best hockey and a terrific attitude. Suzuki is all that.
It wasn’t just Suzuki who was outstanding in this game but couldn’t solve goalie Robin Lehner. Mike Hoffman had terrific jump. Tyler Toffoli scored on a gorgeous breakaway deke. He was flying. That might have been Jeff Petry’s best game in a while. It seemed like he was on the ice all night creating havoc. Alexander Romanov stepped up and scared some people at the blue line with his patented move not seen in these parts since Alexei Emelin. Josh Anderson was driving the net hard. Artturi Lehkonen looked comfortable. Jake Evans wasn’t bothered by playing the second line centre role at all. Christian Dvorak responded very nicely to the demotion to the third line with a strong game.
It is easy to have ScoreVision because it was a loss, but that was a terrific game for the Habs that had poor puck luck. The wrong team winning happens in all sports and it happens in hockey the most. We had a perfect example on Saturday night. Only one team deserved the win and they didn’t get it.
It was hard to believe it was the same team that played against the New York Islanders on Thursday night. That horrific game was followed by a first period that Montreal had 20 shots and Vegas had only one. The second period started just as dominant, but then the club began to show its fragility.
As soon as Vegas got one goal, you know that they were gonna get two, and as soon as they got two, you knew they were gonna take the lead.
This Canadiens hockey team is defying logic. It’s illogical to be that bad on Thursday and that good on Saturday. However, it’s also illogical to be dominating a game 25-7 in shots, but be losing 3-2. That’s this season.
It’s not fair to destroy the players labelling them all as goats here for this game. Yes, the penalty kill remains abysmal, but other than that, this was a tremendous performance from Montreal. That seems a bizarre thing to say in a loss, but it was a strong performance.
The horrible ones were the nine losses before this tenth loss. Those were terrible. Those were deserved losses. This one just felt like the hockey gods have a sick sense of humour. That’s sports. It’s not always fair.
A busy night for the prospects with a lot of interest in what Cole Caufield could bring back in Laval for the first time. The Rocket were in Syracuse and it was a poor night as the Crunch beat Laval 4-0. It was also the first game for Mattias Norlinder on defence. Caufield had four shots in the game. When he was scoring at will in Wisconsin he regularly got eight shots in a contest. In Montreal this year, he was down to two shots-per-game which doesn’t sound like much, but at a respectable 10 per cent shooting percentage that would be two goals in 10 games. Four shots is a respectable number and with Caufield’s shot, the goals should come soon enough.
Sean Farrell’s first year in college hockey is going extremely well. The fourth round draft pick got over 100 points for the Chicago Steel in the USHL last season, and now at Harvard, he is also scoring at will. Farrell with two goals Friday night. He didn’t count on Saturday night in a win over Colgate, but his team is a scoring machine putting five more on the board. Farrell has five goals, four assists for nine points in just four games this season for the Crimson. Harvard is extremely enjoyable to watch this season. They’ll be gathering a lot of attention as the year progresses.
Another hopeful is Jan Mysak who had a big night for the Hamilton Bulldogs with two goals and one assist. Overall, he’s having a strong start to the season in the Ontario Hockey League. Mysak has six goals and six assists in 11 games so far. He’s still only 19 years of age and has been a point-per-game player in the OHL in two abbreviated seasons because of COVID-19.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after each Canadiens game.
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