The Montreal Canadiens had some standout moments from their prospects and even some veterans, but ultimately couldn’t hold down the fort against the Winnipeg Jets.
The combination of hungry youngsters and motivated veterans was a fresh change from the last few rosters the Canadiens have iced in their couple of preseason games; and the result was evident. The Canadiens played with much more pace and better execution; but simply couldn’t finish in the first two periods of the game.
The Canadiens finally broke through in the third period with two timely powerplay goals from Cole Caufield and Brendan Gallagher, but Brad Lambert tied the game late and Nate Schmidt got the last-minute go-ahead goal to allow the Jets to run away with this game.
It was a disappointing end for the club, which hasn’t won a preseason game, but there were quite a few players, especially youngsters, who showed some promising things this evening:
I Got That Old Thing Back
We’ll get to prospects in a second, but, first, let’s give the veterans some props. Brendan Gallagher and his linemates Christian Dvorak and Evgeni Dadonov played a very consistent game, but Gallagher was especially fired up to play in his first preseason game this training camp. He was the tenacious and energetic player Montreal Canadiens fans have grown to love over the last decade; constantly going to the net and fighting for every inch of space on the ice.
He was finally rewarded for his efforts in the third period, potting the game-tying goal and then setting up Cole Caufield’s go-ahead goal just minutes later. Fans were looking for positive signs from Gallagher after a difficult season last year, and he delivered, with an inspiring performance given the circumstances.
Kaiden Guhle again showed his great mobility and hockey sense, by jumping on loose pucks and moving the puck up the ice. He scored a beautiful powerplay goal early on in the first period by doing just that, jumping on a feed by Kirby Dach and firing off a laser past David Rittich.
He also showed a good physical side to his game, delivering thunderous hits to the Jets’ forwards as they came into the zone, all while effectively boxing out his men when they gained possession of the puck. Guhle certainly scored some extra points in his quest to secure himself a coveted roster spot, once again looking like the most NHL-ready of the Montreal Canadiens’ youngsters on the backend.
Kaiden Guhle is good at hockey pic.twitter.com/o0ErvHKoTG
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) September 29, 2022
Heineman Train Keeps Rolling
Emil Heineman continues to make things happen on the ice whenever the puck is on his stick. He was used in every situation and continued to play the aggressive and physical game that head coach Martin St. Louis praised earlier this week.
Heineman was used at the right circle on the powerplay and unleashed some dangerous one-timers from there, but was also good at taking his time with the puck and seeking out open teammates. He showed some good maturity out there and was solid away from the puck; which earned him some usage on the penalty kill as well.
He may not have found the back of the net as of yet, but he’s certainly leaving a good impression on management during this training camp. Decisions, decisions.
Xhekaj Still In The Race
Arber Xhekaj was also impressive in his own way, showing impressive mobility for a player his size and a good jump in his play. He was also deployed in a puck-moving role on the powerplay where he was very adept at recuperating and distributing the puck.
What’s interesting is how much Xhekaj’s game continues to grow after each game. He’s gone from being viewed as a stay-at-home guy to being a true all-around defenceman in such a short time. Adding extra facets to his game and reeling in his physical game has allowed him to show the management group exactly what he can do. If he continues to progress, it’ll be hard to deny him.
Arber Xhekaj looking to mix in some violence pic.twitter.com/gnwXTjrIa0
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) September 30, 2022
Growing Pains For Norlinder and Primeau
Mattias Norlinder continues to struggle this preseason. It was once again one step behind the play again this evening, getting caught one stride behind Evan Polei as he easily tapped in a loose puck coming his way for the Winnipeg Jets‘ first goal. Again on the second Jets goal by Maier, he got caught up on the play and was unable to clear the puck before being stripped and the puck ultimately winding up behind the net.
Similarly, Cayden Primeau did not have himself a good night, looking week on the final two goals while the Montreal Canadiens had the win within their grasp. Controlling shots on the angles continues to be a difficult task for Primeau during this preseason, as he was beat clean by Brad Lambert late in the third from the middle of the slot.
He’s going to have to significantly pick up his play if he’s going to want to stay in the race for the backup role. That being said, it wouldn’t be an outlandish thing to see Primeau spend a full, uninterrupted season in Laval for once; in order to get in some valuable development time.