The Montreal Canadiens prospects were in Buffalo on Friday night to take part in their first game of the 2023 Prospects Challenge. It was a high-energy, fast-paced game that ultimately resulted in a 6-3 Sabres win. The shots were 28-21 in favour of Buffalo.
David Reinbacher did not stand out on Friday night, and that’s perfectly fine.
He played a slightly tentative brand of hockey and was outmatched physically on a few occasions, but overall he played a solid, quiet game. He made a few good breakouts which led to decent scoring chances, and handled pressure from forechecking Sabres forwards with aplomb.
Trudeau Wins Majority
One of the most impressive players in Buffalo last year was defenceman William Trudeau (No.84), a fourth-round pick from the 2021 Entry Draft. He picked up exactly where he left off, serving as the Canadiens’ best defenceman in their opening game against the Sabres.
He made a couple of bad decisions, including the play which resulted in the fourth Sabres goal, but for the most part, he was great, including his ability to generate quick, crisp breakout passes.
His physical brand of hockey is a big asset, not only because he wins the majority of the puck battles he engages in, but also because he knows when to pick and choose his spots. His aggressive style of play paid off on the second Canadiens goal of the game, as he not only created the turnover that led to the rush, but he also set up Miguel Tourigny with a very easy rebound goal.
MTL 2, BUF 1
On reprend l'avance!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) September 15, 2023
Dobes Keeps Them In It Early
Jakub Dobes is not the type of goaltender who will put together an abundance of shutouts throughout the season, but he has a penchant for coming up big when his team needs it most, and he rarely has two bad games in a row.
Through the first 40 minutes of the game, he was the best Montreal Canadiens prospect against the Sabres, making several key saves as the Habs struggled to contain Buffalo forwards.
He doesn’t always look graceful on the ice, though much of that is due to his 6’4″ frame. On most saves, he looks like he’s closer to 6’6″ because he’s a tall, lanky goaltender who also plays big.
He made several nice saves during odd-man rushes, which points to a lack of chemistry from the defensive group, an issue that was not completely unexpected given it was the first time they faced a real opponent. The Sabres may have scored six goals, but it would have been much worse if not for Dobes.
Jakub Dobes is keeping the rookie Habs in the game. Another great save, this time on a 2v1. pic.twitter.com/WSwqKC8DVZ
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) September 16, 2023
As per usual, Xavier Simoneau (No.43) was incredibly entertaining. He scored the first Habs goal, drove Zach Benson into the net on the backcheck, and got into a fight with a much bigger opponent.
That is known as the Simoneau hat trick.
Xavier Simoneau doing Xavier Simoneau things. pic.twitter.com/goKj7tksOH
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) September 16, 2023
Owen Beck also had a very good outing, playing alongside Emil Heineman and Joshua Roy, the latter of whom scored the third goal for the Montreal Canadiens.
Most people will notice that he had two assists, but his most impressive play came on the backcheck, once again showing his high level of anticipation and defensive awareness.
Obviously, management will take notice of his two assists, but I am sure they appreciated his Owen Backcheck a little more, and that’s the type of play that quickly builds trust with the coaching staff, which explains why he’s almost always used in the most crucial situations wherever he plays.
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) September 16, 2023
It’s the first game of the first tournament of the year. We can’t expect perfection. That being said, two players in particular struggled against Buffalo.
Sean Farrell wanted to help out offensively, but he lost the puck on several occasions, including the play that led to the aforementioned Owen Backcheck. You don’t want a player to be hesitant out there, and Farrell has to be involved to contribute, which is why I’m not overly worried about his play, but he was definitely a little too lackadaisical with the puck. He needs to make slightly quicker decisions when pressured.
Defensively, the Logan Mailloux – Christopher Ortiz pairing had a very hard time keeping players to the outside. Orti did not do him any favours, but it’s only fair to say that Mailloux will want to quickly move on from his performance on Friday night.
He was on the ice for three goals against, two of which involved poor situational and positional awareness. He failed to hustle in an attempt to corral a loose puck, which quickly led to a Sabres goal.
He followed it up by losing position when a puck was flipped into the zone on the forecheck. He could have used some help from his centre, but he simply can’t allow such a big gap between himself and his opponent. He was fine in the offensive zone and even had a nice rush to generate a chance in the third period.
Again, no one is expecting a Norris-Trophy worth performance, and a new defensive partner will help, however, most of the mistakes were simply poor reads on his part. He’ll want to bounce back with a strong performance in his next outing once the nerves subside a little.
— Rachel Hopmayer (@rachelhopmayer) September 16, 2023
The Montreal Canadiens are back in action Saturday afternoon, facing the Boston Bruins during their second matchup of the 2023 Prospect Challenge. The puck drop is scheduled for 3:30 PM ET. You can watch all the games via the Buffalo Sabres YouTube page.