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Game Notes: Guhle Cements Spot, Caufield Keeps Scoring

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Montreal Canadiens Kaiden Guhle

With a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens’ preseason schedule came to a merciful end on Saturday night.

With jobs on the line and roster cuts in the near future, it was a final opportunity for veterans and rookies alike to make their mark.

Real Estate

The only pressing question left to answer concerning Kaiden Guhle‘s future is which neighbourhood he’ll choose to live in once he makes the Montreal Canadiens’ opening-night roster.

He scored his third goal of the preseason on Saturday night, which will surely please the Edmonton native seeing as he explicitly mentioned he wanted to improve his play in the offensive zone at the start of development camp.

Beyond his goal, Guhle did a great job generating controlled breakouts, both with crisp passes to streaking forwards and nice plays that showed off his skating ability.

Darkhorse

Arber Xhekaj shouldn’t look for a new place to live in Montreal just yet, though he does have a rather economical option a couple of hours away in Ottawa, where he’s been offered free rent by Senators head coach DJ Smith.

The final preseason game offered an interesting test for the undrafted defenceman, and despite the Senators icing a lineup in a thinly-veiled attempt to finally earn the upper hand in the physical department, Xhekaj played a calm, focused game.

If he does make the lineup other teams could very well react in the same emotional manner as the Senators have since the Massicotte knockout, which will put an onus on Xhekaj’s ability to keep his Hulk-like alter ego in check.

His decision-making shone particularly bright while the Canadiens were shorthanded in the second period. He took a calculated risk to join the play, which led to two prime scoring chances.

Building Momentum

The preseason serves many purposes. For snipers like Cole Caufield, the goal is to establish a scoring rhythm, as to avoid a prolonged scoreless streak to start the year.

With his fourth goal of the preseason, it’s fair to say Caufield has found his rhythm, which bodes well for his sophomore campaign.

All four goals have come on the power play, and while Martin St-Louis would surely like to see a little more production at even strength, knowing his best goal-scorer is already finding the back of the net should put his mind at ease.

Juraj Watch

The first-overall pick at the 2022 Draft continued his steady progress, starting the game with a great breakout pass that led to a prime scoring chance for his linemates, Rem Pitlick and Josh Anderson.

He followed it up by using his wingspan and anticipation to intercept a breakout pass in the Senators’ zone, which would have led to another high-danger scoring chance if Anderson had managed to corral the puck.

Slafkovsky did take a penalty which led to a power-play goal for the Senators, though you could argue it was a questionable reaction by Shane Pinto, who simultaneously broke the laws of gravity while pulling off a move that could have won a silver medal at the Olympics freestyle snowboard event.

Fading Late

It would be unfair to say both Jordan Harris and Justin Barron have played poorly lately, but neither defenceman has done enough to convince Montreal Canadiens management they’re among the best options when it comes to filling the job openings on the blue line.

They’re on the cusp, and Harris should be considered among the first call-ups from Laval, but there’s a clear juxtaposition in readiness compared to other young defencemen in the organization, such as Guhle and Xhekaj.

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Brian Chandler

Is hiring MSL another mistake like hiring Tremblay both with little or no coaching experience?

Marco D'Amico

He isn’t there to win games right now, so I’m not sure the comparison makes a ton of sense.

George Michaels

I hope Arber X helps Habs fans forget Romanov and Sergachev!

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