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Canadiens Analysis

Slafkovsky Provides Spark for Canadiens In Loss To St-Louis



montreal canadiens head coach martin st-louis

The Montreal Canadiens were hoping to get their first win of a three-game road trip against the St. Louis Blues, this Saturday.

Surely, playing one of the lowest-scoring teams whose star players are struggling offensively, on the tail end of back-to-back games is going to get them the win, right?

Martin St. Louis tweaked his lineup for the occasion with Christian Dvorak drawing in for his first game of the season, Michael Pezzetta replacing Jesse Ylonen, and Juraj Slafkovsky joining Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki on the first line, something fans had been clamouring for – especially this past week.

While the game was tight for two periods, things fell apart in the third, and the Habs lost six to three, and are now presenting a 5-4-2 record.

Here are your highlights and storylines.


Are you alright, (Mathe) son?

The Blues wasted no time, scoring 1:24 into the game, thanks to a weak Mike Matheson turnover at the offensive blue line. The Montreal Canadiens defenceman and his partner, Jonathan Kovacevic, then got confused in their coverage, leaving Jordan Kyrou wide open to bury a Brayden Schenn feed.

A few minutes later, Robert Thomas potted the go-ahead goal after Matheson feebly poke-checked him, losing his stick in the process, and offering time and space for the Blues player to pick his corner.

The Pointe-Claire native got walked on again, on Schenn’s goal, later in the third period.

Matheson, who at times looked like the Montreal Canadiens best player this season, had one of his worst games of the year.  There seems to be no middle ground for #8, as he either looks like a Norris candidate or a beer leaguer.

Forget and reset; the Montreal Canadiens will need him to be solid against the Lightning on Tuesday night.

What Even Is Rush Defense?

The St. Louis Blues were afforded numerous odd-man rushes throughout this contest, scoring on a few of them. Plenty of those came after bad turnovers, but something had to be done about defending the neutral zone, yet the Montreal Canadiens simply never adjusted.

Furthermore, defensive assignments will need to be revisited, as Habs players were often caught covering the same opponent, leaving others open. Here’s a prime example below:

The Blues could’ve had a few more goals and that’s not because Montembeaut was stellar – they simply missed the net or fanned on shots. The final score could’ve been much worse.

Silver Linings

There are still a few positive things to consider after a forgettable game.

Slaffing All The Way To The Bank

Juraj Slafkovsky quickly retorted after the Blues’ early goal, rewarding his coach for promoting him, with a powerplay goal.

He looked composed, had a few good shots, played well on the board, and acted decisively all night. Rome wasn’t built in one day, and a good game by the former first-overall pick is a great stepping stone for a teenager who was under much scrutiny these past few days.

Perhaps the talks about sending him to the American Hockey League will cool down if he keeps it up. Let’s not forget recovery from knee injuries can be lengthy, and Slaf missed considerable time last year. He may still need some time to really get going.

Playing with deft playmakers should also help, as his previous line with Alex Newhook and Josh Anderson was simply painful to watch. While Caufield and Suzuki didn’t exactly have a banner night, it could be worthwhile to give them a few games to develop chemistry.

In any case, the monkey is off his back – let’s see what’s in store for the hulking winger in the next few games.

Staying Off The Box

The Montreal Canadiens played a much more disciplined brand of hockey, contrary to what we’ve seen from them all year. Entering the third period trailing three to two, they were unpenalized and needed to keep it that way if they were to claw back into this game.

It almost felt like opposites day, as the Blues were the ones who indulged in visiting the sin bin, generously offering the visiting team four power plays – on which they capitalized once.

Unless it was the Blues’ strategy to get a shorthanded goal?

Arber Xhekaj – who is third in penalty minutes in the league – nearly went unpenalized before hilariously squeezing a minor penalty as the game expired.

Baby steps…

Gally’s Got Goals

With his fourth goal in 11 games, Brendan Gallagher sure is silencing a lot of people who spoke ill of him and his contract. The ever-combative winger is currently on pace for 29 goals, and his line, alongside Tanner Pearson and Sean Monahan, is a great example of resilience and a feel-good, comeback story.

Can you enter an entire line as Bill Masterton Trophy nominees?

What Else For These Montreal Canadiens?

If those silver linings aren’t doing it for you, maybe you’ll find comfort in the fact that Cole Caufield is still a point-per-game player this season… and that Lane Hutson had a hat trick tonight!