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Canadiens Xhekaj, Slafkovsky, Newhook Shine In Loss Versus Leafs



Montreal Canadiens Alex Newhook

The Montreal Canadiens were in Toronto on Wednesday to open the season against the Maple Leafs.

It was yet another exciting game between the two age-old rivals.

There were fights, terrible penalty calls, momentum swings, a couple of comebacks, and a 6-5 shootout win by the Leafs.

There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s dive right into it.

The Rough Stuff

It didn’t take long for Leafs newcomer Ryan Reaves to get involved in a fight. Following a questionable hit on Kaiden Guhle, the Leafs enforcer was introduced to The Sherrif, Arber Xhekaj.

Xhekaj immediately overpowered Reaves, who was left scrambling throughout the entire fight, ending up on his back after Xhekaj pushed him into the Canadiens net.

Not many punches were thrown, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue that it was anything short of a disheartening sight for Leafs fans. Reaves was supposed to be the great equalizer in the physical battles, but he was clearly outclassed by a much stronger Xhekaj.

Xhekaj was excellent all game. Not only did he earn an assist on Montreal’s fourth goal of the game, but he also put his physical prowess to good use throughout the matchup.

Evans Shows Up

Jake Evans did not have a great preseason.

To be even more accurate, if Evans was a rookie, most would have assumed that he was bound for the AHL to play with the Laval Rocket based on his performance at training camp.

He had a really hard time putting everything together, a recurring theme when evaluating his NHL career.

But the veteran was never at risk of being cut, and unlike previous seasons, he got off to a great start to the year.

He scored a nice breakaway goal early in the first period, though, it must be said, T.J. Brodie played a crucial role in the play by tripping on an invisible milk crate at the blue line.

As confidence-boosting goals go, this one was pretty darn good.

SlafDachHook (NewDachsky?)

We’ve already discussed the chemistry shown between Kirby Dach and Juraj Slafkovsky. But there’s a difference between showing chemistry during scrimmages and generating scoring plays against legitimate NHL competition.

The chemistry could make the Canadiens a dangerous team for bettors taking the under. There are a lot of betting and gambling options for any sports fan – from placing bets at a real Canadian casino to placing the same bet at an online sportsbook. Throughout the game, the odds were changing, especially with the Canadiens’ unexpected early lead.

They quickly put the concerns to rest against the Maple Leafs, as evidenced by the Canadiens’ second goal of the game, which was also Alex Newhook’s first goal in a Habs uniform. You’ll note that I did not include Slafkovsky in the original tweet, but he clearly had a hand to play in the goal. It was a very nice assist and a great start to his season.

The Canadiens thought they had taken a 3-0 lead when Cole Caufield scored on the power play, but someone went offside by a few millimetres about 58 seconds before the goal, and it was called back after an offside review.

The good news is that snipers are going to snipe, and that’s exactly what Caufield did a little later in the third period. Take a look at his pre-shot movement, which confuses the Leafs goaltender and creates chaos in the slot.

The Newdachsky line then went back to work, scoring a very nice goal to give the Habs a 4-3 lead.

It took a quick shot by Xhekaj at the point and a nice deflection by Newhook to score, but it must be said that Slafkovsky’s play to nullify the clearance was the highlight of the goal.

I may be praising him too much or a little too early, but I have to say it was an EXCELLENT game by Slafkovsky. He was a difference-maker during every shift.

Oopsie Daisy

Not to pile on, but the Leafs’ defence was playing as if it were the 83rd game of the schedule.

Jesse Ylonen took advantage of one of their many blunders to give the Habs a much-needed cushion goal.

The 5-3 goal was a good example of what Ylonen brings to the table: talent.

The Habs need more talented players in the lineup, and Ylonen fits the bill.

Leafs Pushback

The Maple Leafs surged midway through the game thanks to a few questionable calls and a rather weak goal allowed by Jake Allen. And though the goal immediately shifted the momentum to Toronto’s side, it’s also fair to say Allen made a great save later that also turned the tide, but this time in Montreal’s favour.

Overall, it was a rough game by the Habs goaltender, punctuated by the fact that he allowed a hat-trick by Auston Matthews, but he did make several nice saves in overtime when the Leafs had multiple high-danger scoring chances.

The Montreal Canadiens are back in action on Saturday, as they host Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks at the Bell Centre. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.

All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick.