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Canadiens Highlights

Canadiens Struble Scores, Slafkovsky Stars In Win Vs Sabres



montreal canadiens defneceman Jayden Struble

The Montreal Canadiens were in Buffalo on Saturday to face the struggling Sabres.

Jayden Struble scored his first career NHL goal, Cayden Primeau was excellent, and Juraj Salfkovsky played a starring role.

It was a very physical matchup, and there’s a lot to get to, so let’s dive right into the highlights of the 3-2 shootout win by the Habs.

All Sabres Early

The Canadiens enjoyed one of their patented slow starts on Saturday night, but thanks to some excellent play from Cayden Primeau, the teams headed into the first intermission with zeros on the board.

That’s not abnormal for Primeau. He’s usually excellent in the first period but tends to fade down the stretch like a poorly mixed McFlurry.

The best chance of the first period belonged to Joel Armia. The veteran winger returned to his lineup, taking Michael Pezzetta’s spot on the fourth line alongside Jake Evans and Jesse Ylonen.

He made a great move to gain access to a high-danger scoring area but roofed the puck when he ran out of runway.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

There was more unfortunate news from an injury standpoint. Tanner Pearson took a puck to the hand in the second which forced him to leave the game. The Canadiens did not confirm anything, but it did seem to be the same hand that caused him so many issues when he played for the Vancouver Canucks.

Second Period Surge

Primeau held the fort long enough for the Canadiens to take control of the momentum midway through the second period. The Sabres took a 5-minute major when Eric Robinson decided to perform the most blatant boarding call of the month.

Kaiden Guhle was also penalized on the play, giving players plenty of space on the ice to operate.

Rookie Jayden Struble, who enjoyed yet another strong game, capitalized on the opportunity.

He started and finished a play to score his first career NHL goal, a fitting reward for a player who has played an efficient brand of hockey since joining the Canadiens.

Struble received his call-up because he was the most reliable defenceman in the AHL, and he’s going to stay in the NHL because he’s maintained that consistency during almost every shift.

Most tend to point to Struble’s defensive prowess when describing his style of play, but he’s making a bigger impact at the other end of the rink with his quick puck retrievals and successful breakouts.

As for Primeau, he wasn’t as busy in the second period, but he stood tall when called upon. The Canadiens only allowed the Sabres to take two high-danger shots, compared to six in the first frame, but they were lucky Primeau was in the zone when Brendan Gallagher gave up the puck in the worst possible area on the ice.

Tempers flared toward the end of the second period. To be fair, after the Robinson penalty, the Canadiens responded aggressively to any Sabres play that involved a hit or a shove.

So Close, And Yet So Far Away

Death, taxes, and brutal giveaways by the Habs that lead to easy goals for the opposition.

The Canadiens have a young defensive core, and mistakes are bound to happen, but not a game goes by without a ridiculously terrible giveaway that would look bad in a pee wee game.

In this case, it was Struble who forced the pass. It was probably his first bad decision since his call-up from the Laval Rocket, which makes it a little easier to swallow. He’s the player in the lineup with the least experience.

I don’t want to be too harsh, because everyone is playing above their heads considering their usage, but it’s difficult to improve from a team standpoint when defencemen are doing more harm than good in the defensive zone.

Justin Barron made a handful of terrible plays in his own zone, and his poor decision-making came to the forefront shortly after the Sabres scored their first goal.

This is very common for Barron. When he relies on his instincts, he’s good. But the moment he has too much time to think, things go horribly wrong.

The Canadiens did have an opportunity to take the lead when Suzuki and Cole Caufield poured into the offensive zone on a 2v1, but Montreal native Devon Levi made a great save. You could argue Caufield could have done a better job with his shot, and you’d be right.

Frustration Station

After hitting the post in the dying minutes of the third period, Juraj Slafkovsky was involved in his first official NHL fight. Fighting is not Slafkovsky’s game, but it was a heated matchup and almost everyone on the ice was playing with a chip on their shoulder.

Scenes like this will only add credence to the idea that Arber Xhekaj should be in the NHL.

The ugly stuff continued, as veteran Brendan Gallagher lost his cool following a tripping call. I understand it’s an emotional game and Jeff Skinner is known for diving, but Gallagher can’t be acting like a rookie out there. He wears a letter on his chest for a reason.

He’s lucky he didn’t cause a 5v3 powerplay for the Sabres in the dying moments of the game.

Martin St-Louis was not impressed by his antics.

Montreal Canadiens Shootout Stars

After Caufield scored his first shootout goal of the season, Jesse Ylonen followed suit.

He isn’t getting very many opportunities with the Canadiens, but whenever he does, he usually makes good things happen, including this great goal against Levi.

Fittingly, it was Slafkovsky that gave the Canadiens the win. Levi made an aggressive play but forgot Slafkovsky has the reach of an Andean Condor, which allowed him to tuck the puck behind the Montreal native.

That goal won’t show up in his point totals, but it should do wonders when it comes to his confidence.

Gif Of The Game

I’m sure there will be some calls for Xhekaj’s return to the lineup after Saturday night’s game.

Frankly, I think he should be in the lineup because he has better underlying numbers than all the other defencemen in the Canadiens lineup, but his physical dominance is a great bonus.

Either way, when you see a team like the Sabres take liberties with your best players, The Sheriff will be missed.

In the meantime, the Canadiens will have to defend by committee, and that means all hands on deck, including Caufield.

The Montreal Canadiens are back in action on Sunday. They will face the Nashville Predators at the Bell Centre.

All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via Natural Stat Trick.