Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Hidden Sport: Observations from Canadiens’ 5-2 win in Washington

Captain Nick Suzuki returns from the group’s bye week and the all-star break with two targets within the first interval to cleared the path.

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Captain Nick Suzuki was all the time the Canadiens’ first-line centre, even when Sean Monahan was with the group.

Now that Monahan’s gone — traded to Winnipeg final Friday — extra emphasis will probably be positioned on Suzuki’s play. And he didn’t disappoint Tuesday night time, scoring Montreal’s opening two targets in a 5-2 victory at Washington. It was the Canadiens’ return to motion following their bye week and the all-star break.

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And whereas the vast majority of Suzuki’s teammates had been having fun with the solar and surf final week, Suzuki was in Toronto because the Canadiens’ lone consultant on the All-Star Sport. He ought to have been drained and had each excuse to not carry out towards the Capitals. As an alternative, Suzuki now has six targets and 14 factors in 11 profession video games towards Washington.

Gone, however not forgotten: Capitals winger Max Pacioretty, a former Canadiens’ captain, confronted Montreal for the primary time since June 24, 2021, when the Canadiens eradicated Vegas to succeed in the Stanley Cup last. Pacioretty, who spent 10 seasons with the Canadiens after being chosen twenty second general in 2007, checked out occasions like a participant making an attempt to keep away from one other torn Achilles. He was enjoying solely his thirteenth recreation this season.

Gone, and forgotten: The Canadiens gave goaltender Charlie Lindgren his NHL begin, after signing him as a free agent on March 30, 2016. Lindgren performed parts of 5 seasons with Montreal, showing in 24 video games and, whereas he had two shutouts in 2017-18, he by no means was going to be the second-coming of Carey Worth. Or Patrick Roy, for that matter.

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Lindgren made his third profession begin towards the Canadiens and was yanked onto the bench barely greater than 13 minutes into the sport, after permitting three targets on 9 photographs. That works out to a save proportion of .667.

Welcome to the Canadiens: A lot was product of centre Brandon Gignac‘s Montreal debut. Signed to a two-year, two-way contract on Sunday, the Laval Rocket’s most-productive participant — 14 targets and 42 factors in 43 video games — was capable of get heat early, receiving his first shift barely 20 seconds into the sport.

Gignac, 26, enjoying solely the second recreation of his NHL profession — and the primary since March 9, 2019 with New Jersey — acquired a lift of confidence from head coach Martin St. Louis, thrown instantly into the fireplace, enjoying towards Alex Ovechkin and Dylan Strome on his opening shift. Earlier within the day following the morning skate, St. Louis mentioned Gignac’s compete stage and talent are at an NHL stage. Gignac had nearly quarter-hour of ice time in his first recreation for Montreal and gained 50 per cent of his faceoffs.

Unusual, however true: Michael Pezzetta, maybe The Hidden Sport’s favorite Canadien — given his dedication each shift and the very fact he’s all the time keen to provide time to ink-stained media wretches whereas being brutally sincere — offered the Canadiens with a 3-0 lead, sending Lindgren to the bench.

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It was Pezzetta’s third purpose this season in 39 video games. Whereas that may not seem to be a lot, it’s yet one more than Jake Evans, now the Canadiens’ second-line centre, has produced in 50 video games. Heading into the Washington recreation, Evans was averaging 15:44 of ice time in comparison with Pezzetta’s 7:31. And Pezzetta hits something that strikes.

A story of two durations: We’re undecided what goes on within the Canadiens’ dressing room between durations. However after producing 13 photographs by way of 20 minutes, the guests had been held to 5 within the second interval. After Joel Armia’s shot within the seventh minute, the Canadiens didn’t direct one other shot at Darcy Kuemper till Armia’s within the last minute.

The chase continues: Whereas Ovechkin scored Washington’s first purpose, barely greater than six minutes into the second interval, the 38-year-old is a shadow of his once-dominant self. Ovechkin has a modest 10 targets and 32 factors by way of 45 video games, giving him 832 in his profession. He hopes to catch Wayne Gretzky, the all-time NHL chief, with 894. With two extra seasons remaining on his contract, Ovechkin must significantly improve his tempo.

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Save of the sport: Within the twelfth minute of the second interval, Canadiens defenceman David Savard denied Pacioretty an nearly sure purpose. Savard, you’ll keep in mind, missed 22 video games earlier this season with a fractured left hand after blocking a shot towards Buffalo in late October. Following this most up-to-date block, Savard acquired a hug from goalie Samuel Montembeault. Canadiens’ normal supervisor Kent Hughes doesn’t want our recommendation, however we wouldn’t commerce Savard underneath any circumstance.

Information you want: With two assists, Canadiens defenceman Mike Matheson has established a profession excessive, with 36 factors (seven targets and 29 assists). He additionally logged 27:08 ice time. … Cole Caufield now has 23 assists. He had 10 in 46 video games final season. … With 37 saves Montembeault, the Molson Cup winner for January, had a .949 save proportion towards Washington and continues establishing himself because the Canadiens’ first-string goalie.

They mentioned it: “We had numerous enthusiasm coming again after the break,” Suzuki advised reporters in Washington. “We bought out to an incredible lead (though) our second interval was fairly sloppy. We managed to have a stable third interval and lengthen our lead.”

“It wasn’t the prettiest win,” Evans mentioned in Washington. “I’d say lack of execution. Guys felt a bit rusty with their arms. It was nonetheless large to win and get the boldness going.”

“It was removed from excellent,” St. Louis mentioned. “I don’t imagine you play an ideal recreation on this league. I felt we corrected ourselves within the third and performed with the lead.”

hzurkowsky@postmedia.com

twitter.com/HerbZurkowsky1

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