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Game Notes: Juraj Slafkovsky Plays Best Game Of The Preseason

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Montreal Canadiens

MONTREAL — It was a familiar script for the Montreal Canadiens in their penultimate matchup of the preseason: a solid effort from young players that led to yet another disappointing result, this time a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

The game did yield many encouraging moments, particularly when it came down to evaluating the play of certain prospects that are on the verge of earning a job in the NHL.

Slaf Watch

Juraj Slafkovsky’s opportunities to prove he’s worthy of a spot in the opening-night lineup are dwindling, however, he did a great job adding more evidence to his case on Thursday night.

He created chances, was first on the forecheck, and drew two penalties, the second of which led to the Canadiens’ second goal of the game.

Slafkovsky, who found instant chemistry alongside Josh Anderson, didn’t just generate quasi-chances as he did in previous games.

His passes were crisp and accurate, despite some challenging circumstances, as evidenced by the play in which he managed to get the puck to Anderson despite dragging Senators defenceman Artem Zub behind him as if he was giving away free waterskiing lessons.

NHL Bound

There are no guarantees in life, but Kaiden Guhle is as close as it gets to being a lock on the Montreal Canadiens’ opening-night roster.

He’s scoring goals in the preseason, which is encouraging, but beyond his offensive awareness, he stands out as one of the best players on the blue line, and that’s considering every defenceman at training camp, not just the prospects.

His gap control is arguably among the best in the organization. His skating is arguably the best among defencemen in the organization. His positioning is arguably among the…well, you see where I am going with this.

His first stride is so powerful it makes most Clydesdales envious.

The 20-year-old plays with the confidence of a 10-year-veteran and the youthful exuberance of a player lacing up their skates for the first time.

He failed to shut down a 2v1, which led to a penalty shot goal for Tim Stutzle, but you’d be hard-pressed to blame Guhle for the manner in which the play developed. He was the only player still in position once Stutzle made it to a high-danger scoring area.

He’s the ideal mix of size and skill—  a hybrid defenceman whose potential only seems to increase every time he hits the ice.

Lineup Options

Playing on a line with Brendan Gallagher and Mike Hoffman, Kirby Dach once again put his impressive skill set to good use.

His affinity for keeping the puck too far away from his body seems to have subsided, replaced by a penchant for driving the net and consequently creating open ice for his linemates.

It’s also worth noting how well Dach meshed with Gallagher, who is poised to return to form this season following a frustrating showing in 2021-22.

Disappointing Audition

Otto Leskinen lined up beside David Savard, playing as the defacto first pairing for the Montreal Canadiens against the Senators. And while it’s only fair to say Savard did not have his best game of the preseason, Leskinen failed to take advantage of the promotion.

He started the game playing a smart, if not simple game. He managed to get pucks through traffic in the offensive zone and position himself properly at his blueline.

But things went downhill from there, most notably during the Senators’ second goal of the game.

Cayden Primeau, on the other hand, started on a rather poor note but gained confidence as the game unfolded.

That being said, he has to get out of the habit of making jaw-dropping saves, followed by goals that no NHL goalie can afford to let in.

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