With players returning from their appearances in the World Cup of Hockey , the Montreal Canadiens iced a forward lineup that is beginning to resemble the squad that will begin the regular season. There is still room to make impressions, and some prospective roster players did just that on Thursday night — for better or worse.
Mikhail Sergachev is the real deal
The 2016 first-round pick sat out the Habs first two pre-season games, recovering from an injury suffered against the Ottawa Senators in the Rookie Tournament. He came back and looks like he’s a ten-year NHL veteran, with smart puck distribution and heads-up play. He used his size to separate opponents from the puck, before shoveling it along to his defensive partner. Add in his poise on the power play and it’s no wonder he got his first point in an NHL environment last night.
Mike Condon is sliding down the depth chart
Talk about a reversal of fortunes since last year's training camp and pre-season. Condon came last year after a highly successful season in the AHL, and inevitably ended up forcing Dustin Tokarski to the AHL, and out of the Habs system entirely. This year, however, Condon has struggled to find any sense of consistency, and likely finds himself falling behind Charlie Lindgren in the Canadiens’ backup battle.
Zach Redmond continues to impress
When he was originally signed, it was expected that Redmond would be an AHL defenceman, or at best the Habs’ seventh option. Since the start of training camp, though, Redmond has arguably been one of the best blue-liners. He added another goal tonight, on a slick little play where he pulled the goalie off his post and banked the puck in off of him.
He’s not the only defenseman playing well in the preseason ...
Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu are new players
Fans have been waiting for Beaulieu to break out and reach his potential as an offensive defenceman in the NHL, and it looks like he’s finally on his way to getting there based on his recent play.
Pateryn, who has had his struggles at the NHL level, looks to have sorted out the hiccups in his game.
Both players appear poised with the puck, making crisp passes, and even leading quick breakouts from the defensive zone. The competition for spots on the defensive unit is bringing out the best in all involved.
Michael McCarron: the next “Man Mountain”
The gargantuan American had another impressive showing against Ottawa last night. He tallied a goal with a fantastic drive to the net, using his size to protect the puck, before depositing it through Chris Driedger’s five-hole to tie the game at one goal apiece early in the first.
He also showed off his dominant physical game, hammering Senators puck carries with monstrous body checks, generally making his presence felt in a positive way. If he can reign in his penalty minutes, he won’t be in St. John’s for long, if at all.
L’Artiste is due
Artturi Lehkonen started his pre-season play with a nine-shot performance. He followed that up by being a force in the offensive zone for the Habs once again. Despite not tallying a goal, the young Finn is creating plenty of scoring chances. As soon as his luck turns, the points are going to start rolling in for him.
Muller-Mania is runnin’ wild
While his biggest impact may be on the power play in this upcoming season, it’s already noticeable the impact he’s had on the Canadiens’ defencemen so far. In particular, Nathan Beaulieu used his slick skating to lead breakouts and carry the puck deep into the Ottawa zone, giving teams a far different look than in previous years. Factor in that three of the Habs top six blue-liners weren’t in the lineup and there’s a lot to be excited about this year.
I expected this game to get ugly fast
Two early goals and Mark Borowiecki clotheslining Charles Hudon had me fearing the worst for this game. There was plenty of pushing and shoving, but thankfully the combustible elements (including Bobby Farnham) never sparked anything more than that.
The real competition starts now
Team Canada wrapped up a victory in the World Cup not long after this game finished. That means Shea Weber and Carey Price will soon be returning to the Montreal lineup, as will Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov from their time with Team Russia.
While Price will own the net, it looks like Al Montoya and the young Charlie Lindgren will battle for the right to be his squire. On defence, Michel Therrien has a wealth of options in Pateryn, Barberio, Redmond and the rookie Sergachev. With Andrew Shaw suspended, the time for Hudon, Sven Andrighetto, and Daniel Carr to make their mark is now, and force Bergevin to keep them in the NHL.
Canada wins. Duh.
In a shocking twist, Team Canada wins a hockey championship again.
What? It was on at the same time as this game, too.