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Canadiens Highlights

Montreal Canadiens Let Down By Special Teams Versus Buffalo



Montreal canadiens buffalo sabres

The Montreal Canadiens were back at the Bell Centre on Thursday, their first home game after a lengthy seven-game road trip. They faced the struggling Buffalo Sabres, who were desperate to get back on track after yet another poor start to the season.

Before the start of the game, Nick Suzuki was named to his third All-Star Team, a well-deserved honour for the Canadiens captain.

It was not a banner night for the special teams, despite Joel Armia scoring a great shorthanded goal. After two very similar powerplay goals, the Sabres cruised to a 6-1 win.

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Let’s dive into those highlights!

Segment 1

The Habs have received impressive production from their top line in recent games, but Juraj Slafkovsky, Cole Caufield, and Nick Suzuki’s success has also put a spotlight on the lack of secondary and tertiary offence from the rest of the lineup.

The first period was a back-and-forth affair without a goal, but there were notable contributions from players like Jesse Ylonen and Brendan Gallagher.

The Habs held an 8-5 advantage in high-danger chances in the first period, but Montreal native Devon Levi stood tall for the Sabres, nullifying every attempt Gallagher and Co. made to disrupt his flow.

Shorthanded Issues

Things went awry early in the second period when the Canadiens were forced to kill back-to-back penalties.

The first goal was the type of play that will drive a defensive coach crazy. It was a little too easy for the Sabres to find open ice near Jake Allen. They could use this clip as the perfect example of what not to do on the penalty kill. It was much too passive.

The second powerplay goal came shortly after a terrible call by the officials. Those who follow my recaps know I hate blaming things on referees. More often than not, the calls even out. I genuinely do not believe there’s malice involved in their decisions.

But the penalty on Mitchell Stephens was genuinely terrible. He was simply stronger than Peyton Krebs, who decided he wanted to initiate contact once he saw Zemgus Girgensons was closer to the puck.

It should be noted the referee in the neutral zone that made the call, not the referee with the clear line of sight who was roughly 30 inches away from the play.

However, the referees were not responsible for yet another poor display of defensive coverage down low during the penalty kill.

The Sabres simply had to put on a repeat performance of their first powerplay goal, except this time the pass came from stage right. Personally, I’d argue the matinee was a little better than the afternoon show, but to each their own.

The Habs can’t afford to allow opponents free rein along the ‘royal road’. It’s a recipe for failure.

Armia’s Gonna Armia

Habs fans are well aware Joel Armia will go roughly seven games without doing anything of note before inevitably pulling a rabbit out of his hat.

Thursday night featured yet another Armia magic trick. This time he stole the puck from one of the best defencemen in the NHL, Rasmus Dahlin, before wiring a shorthanded goal by Levi.

It was Armia’s fifth goal of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. It shifted the momentum back to the Canadiens, who spent the rest of the second period threatening to score a second goal.


And Then There Were Three

The momentum quickly faded in the third period, as the Montreal Canadiens had a very hard time stopping the Sabres’ rush. Or, rather, they hardly tried to stop them, as evidenced by the easy zone entry before the third goal.

The Mike Matheson and David Savard pairing wasn’t the only one to struggle, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue they’ve looked good in recent games. It may be time for a defensive shuffle.


Struble’s Play

He didn’t have a perfect game. He was completely lost during the fourth Sabres goal, but for the most part, I did like what I saw from Jayden Struble.

His penchant for quick, efficient passes is always a plus for a blueline that often gets hemmed into the defensive zone.

The Montreal Canadiens will be back in action on Saturday. They will face the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET.

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