Wasn’t it great to see 21,000 strong having fun, chanting, celebrating at the Bell Centre after such a long time? That’s what I caught myself thinking halfway through the third period of that game against the Detroit Red Wings. FINALLY. Fans had something to celebrate. They were just chomping at the bit and fans present at the game seized their opportunity. On the CBC broadcast, the play by play announcer stopped talking during play, soaking in the noise of the crowd chanting, doing the wave, singing. You could clearly hear it on TV. No more artificial crowd. This was real. This was the Bell Centre.
After allowing the first goal to Detroit, the Canadiens (1-5-0) gave their fans something to celebrate. They scored six unanswered goals to finally get their first points of the season after six games. The 6-1 score, while good to pad some players’ stats, did not reflect how the game went. Jake Allen was outstanding in net for the Habs, while the duo of Thomas Greiss and Alex Nedeljkovic was not up to par for the Red Wings, who outshot the Canadiens 27-24 in the game.
In fact, Dominique Ducharme’s men struggled mightily in their own zone but the Wings (2-2-1), who were without their best goals’ scorer Tyler Bertuzzi, who can’t cross the borders as a non-vaccinated player, had a bad game in them.
Of course, Mathieu Perreault and his hat trick. But more than that, he won five of the seven faceoffs he took (71%) and seems to be establishing a nice chemistry with Tyler Toffoli and rookie Cole Caufield. Maybe the Habs don’t need to look for another centre? Let’s see if Perreault can keep this off so at the very least, he’s buying his GM some time to think about it or for the right deal to present itself.
Jonathan Drouin added another two assists last night and he and his linemates were a threat all night. Drouin has five points in six games so far this season and looks rejuvenated.
The duo of Ben Chiarot and Jeff Petry was good. Some of us had been wanting them together for a while, at least until Joel Edmundson is ready to come back. While it did expose the Niku – Kulak pairing a bit, at least you have your two “best” defensemen facing the opposition’s top opponents.
Sami Niku was a breath of fresh air. Oh he’s not the top-4 right-handed defenseman the Habs desperately need to get out of the hole they’re in, but he was pretty good in his first game with the Habs. He finished the night with two assists, a +3 rating, one shot on goal in 15:32 of ice time (2:40 on the power play).
Speaking of the power play, it has looked better last night. The Canadiens officially went 1 for 4 with the man advantage, but they scored their first goal soon after the power play ended, in the same sequence. They’re still struggling mightily when the other team’s penalty killing unit applies pressure and zone entries are still a bit of a challenge, but the passing was better and they got some good looks.
Nick Suzuki has to start being the motor of his line. He’s not horrible, but he’s not… Suzuki good. He’s showing flashes and sparks but he needs to ignite if the Canadiens want any chance of climbing back into a playoffs’ position.
Those who thought that the Calder Trophy would be handed to Cole Caufield easily might have to change their tune a bit. This is not the Caufield that we’ve seen in the playoffs. He doesn’t get many chances a game and when he does, he misses the net more than we remember him doing. He’s young, he’s learning but he was a big part of the Habs’ playoffs’ success.
David Savard is showing why the Canadiens MUST get a top-4 right-handed defenseman. He simply cannot do it. The only place he seems more comfortable is on the penalty kill but aside from that, he’s a third pairing defenseman.
The penalty kill. Man it’s horrible. The Red Wings went 1 for 3 on the power play and hemmed the Habs in their zone for long sequences in two of their three opportunities. They’re not cutting the passing lanes and are way too passive.
Western road trip
Sunday is travel time for the Canadiens as they fly to Seattle where they will be playing on Tuesday. They will be playing four games in six days, visiting San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim as well, before flying back to Montreal to face the same Red Wings again on November 2nd.
In his post-game press conference, coach Ducharme informed the media that Joel Edmundson is back in Montreal but won’t join the trip in Seattle and in California. He should be able to resume practice with the team upon their return from the West coast.