Let’s put the 6-4 result off to the side right now. We know it was bad, the defence played poorly, and Carey Price wasn’t able to salvage it for his team. There were, however, several moments that deserve to be highlighted, and are crucial for the development of this team going forward.
The play of Nikita Scherbak this year has been a revelation since he’s returned from injury. It seems like at least once a game that the young Russian does something to put your jaw on the floor. Against the Capitals, he deked around four players and then managed a prime scoring chance to cap it all off. This after he scored a highlight-reel goal during the week against the Penguins, and he’s only going to get better when he gets a shot with an offensive centre.
Charles Hudon is finally being rewarded for his hard work this year. With two goals against the Caps, he hit 10 on the year, but he could easily have double that amount if not for awful luck and injuries.
That the two are looking great while playing together is no surprise. When the two were together in St. John’s of the AHL, they were absurdly dominant night in and night out. Keeping them together and getting them a real centre is a priority, although you can say that about most of the skilled wingers the team currently has.
Noah Juulsen doesn’t always stand out on the highlight reels like Scherbak or Hudon, but does the little things right to make an impact. He’s still learning the game at the highest level, but even when faced with the NHL’s premier goal-scorer one-on-one he made calm, smart decisions and defused the play. It’s easy to see why all of his coaches have glowed about his play, and it’s very likely he’ll be a fixture on the Montreal blue line for years to come.
Things are bleak, but there’s plenty to look forward to heading into next year, Scherbak will likely be a full-time NHL player, Hudon likely won’t shoot at 5.6% in his sophomore year, and Juulsen will claim a regular defence spot of his own.
It’s promising that these players offer a reason to watch the remaining games when there’s little else to cheer for.