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Canadiens Postgame

Canadiens Top Pairing Struggles In Frustrating Loss to Flames

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Montreal Canadiens Kaiden Guhle

The Montreal Canadiens were in Calgary on Saturday to face the Flames at the Saddledome.

There was some unfortunate news shortly before the puck dropped, as Canadiens head coach Martin St-Louis left the team indefinitely for family reasons.

Without trying to pry into family matters, veteran David Savard mentioned the team wanted to win the game for St-Louis’ son during the first intermission.

Regardless of the details, every Habs fan is sure to show support and love as the St-Louis family deals with this difficult situation.

Despite outshooting the Flames and producing almost two times more high-danger chances at 5v5, the Canadiens dropped a frustrating 5-2 game in which the team’s top pairing was left chasing their opponents on most plays. More on that later.

Let’s take a look at the highlights.

First Period Effort

The Flames entered the first intermission with a one-goal lead due to Mikael Backlund tipping a Mackenzie Weeger point shot, but overall the Canadiens controlled the flow.

They had more shots and more high-danger scoring chances than their opponents, but Calgary goaltender Dustin Wolf did a great job shutting down the Canadiens’ chances.

On that note, Montreal came very close to opening the scoring when Arber Xhekaj, who owns one of the most underrated shots in the NHL, fired a shot off the post.

Rough Second

Remember when Brian Skrudland scored a goal just nine seconds into overtime in the playoffs against the Calgary Flames?

Well, the Flames may have remembered, as they returned the favour by scoring just 11 seconds into the second period.

Primeau will be disappointed with his rebound, as well as his desperate attempt to clear the puck which pulled him out of position, but he plays behind two defencemen for a reason.

And on this play, it’s only fair to say Kaiden Guhle and Mike Matheson did very little to help out their goaltender.

The same can be said about Calgary’s third goal against Primeau.

Yes, he could have done a better job stopping the shot, but both Matheson and Guhle gave the players they were supposed to be covering free rein in the offensive zone.

The pairing has had its fair share of issues since it was put together. Playing Guhle on his offside is a very big ask, one that he’s predictably struggled with all season.

On The Board

There’s been much ink spilled when it comes to Cole Caufield’s goal-scoring issues. As our columnist Andrew Berkshire recently mentioned, Habs fans should not be overly worried.

Caufield is dealing with a lot of bad luck, and eventually, the goals will start to come.

That’s exactly what happened on Saturday when Caufield scored his first goal since February 15.

It was a fantastic play by Nick Suzuki, who not only started the play but also featured as the playmaker once the puck was in the offensive zone.  Full marks to Juraj Slafkovsky for providing a pass outlet in the neutral zone.

Savard scored the Canadiens’ second goal of the game shortly afterward when his point shot found the back of the net. It was his sixth goal of the season.

We have to admit Wolf had a great game against the Habs, but there was too much traffic in front of him when Savard loaded up at the blue line.

Both Jake Evans and Rafael Harvey-Pinard did well to provide the screen, whereas Tanner Pearson was crucial in the cycle prior to the goal.

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

We should note that right before the Canadiens took over, Flames forward Martin Pospisil, who was fresh off a suspension for an ugly hit he made on Seattle Kraken defenceman Vinn Dunn, made yet another dumb decision.

This time around he didn’t go out of his way to injure anyone, but for some reason, he thought it would be a good idea to go after Suzuki.

You’ll note that his countryman, Slafkovsky, was quick to interject when Pospisil decided to take the stupid penalty.

It’s become a recurring theme this season. Any time someone goes after Suzuki, the goaltenders, or anyone else in the lineup, the Habs are quick to respond, and they respond in force.

You love to see that type of chemistry, solidarity, and team-first mentality from an organization that’s in the midst of a rebuild.

Montreal Canadiens Pairing Issues

Before we get into the Flames’ goals during the third period, we have to point out that a brutal goaltender interference call on Slafkovsky is what turned the tide for Calgary.

I tend to side with referees. They have a very difficult job, and it’s a very fast sport. We really don’t give them enough credit on most nights.

That being said, once in a while they’ll make a bad decision that will influence a game, which is exactly what happened on Saturday. Slafkovsky was clearly pushed after he made a legitimate effort to stop.

If anything, Slafkovsky should have gotten credit for trying to stop before the defenceman pushed him into Wolf.

It took the Flames just six seconds to score on the powerplay, though this time we cannot blame the referees. The Habs have a tendency to give their opponents a ticket to ride during penalty kills.

They simply don’t pick up players near the crease, preferring to stick to their zone defence rather than pivoting to man-to-man coverage.

Calgary made it a 5-2 game just a few shifts later when Guhle and Matheson were once again caught out of position.

It was far from Guhle’s best game, but we also have to keep in mind he receives brutally difficult assignments.

He has the least experience on his pairing, and yet he has to play tough minutes against the opposing team’s best players while playing on his offside.

Finding balance on the blueline is important, but not at the cost of having one of your best young defencemen overwhelmed on a nightly basis.

As for Matheson, it was yet another difficult game from a defensive standpoint, another recurring theme this season.

If you need further proof of their difficult outing, you can check out the comical post-game impact card, where Guhle and Matheson are stuck on a lonely island of terrible defending.

The Montreal Canadiens are back in action on Tuesday. They will face the Oilers in Edmonton. The puck drop is scheduled for 9 pm ET.


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

 

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peter

It isn’t Guhle struggling on his off-side it is Matheson’s horrifically uneven play he is the one who is a -30 which is the 7th worst in the league. For every brilliant play there are 3 gaffes – Guhle does not make anything near amount of mistakes as Matheson. Overtime screw ups either by overhandling the puck or just falling down, it just never ends.