When both Nick Suzuki and Cale Fleury made the Montreal Canadiens’ roster out of training camp, the expectations were quite high, and for good reason. Both had played like veterans all training camp long, and had more than earned their spots going into the regular season. However, when the games started counting, they had their hiccups and mistakes, enough so that Claude Julien took action to help mitigate any negative impact.
Suzuki dropped down from the second line to the fourth on multiple occasions, and Fleury ended up being a healthy scratch in four straight games before playing against the Minnesota Wild. Many people questioned the actions of the Montreal head coach, maybe rightly so given that the team is supposed to be leaning on their youth more going forward.
However, against the Wild the process of it all paid off, at least for a night, as the young Canadiens proved their worth in a lopsided win. While Victor Mete grabbed the attention with his first NHL goal after 127 games, Suzuki’s first was equally as impressive around the net as he showed plenty of composure to slot the puck into the net on his backhand. Julien challenged him to be better after some rough games, and Suzuki responded by playing his best game of the year, with his first career goal being his reward.
Fleury went from the apple of everyone’s eye to a healthy scratch in four straight games, but the head coach swapped him in and took out Christian Folin from the lineup. The gamble paid off; not only was Fleury a strong partner for Ben Chiarot, he stood out in all the right ways against the Wild. He threw his body around, jumped into plays, and above all else held his own in the defensive zone when he needed to.
It’s very easy to be frustrated by some early-season struggles or scratches, but both Suzuki and Fleury took the challenges laid down in front of them and responded in perfect fashion. It’s easy to lose confidence when you’re a young player and things aren’t going your way, what matters more is how you respond to those struggles, and the Canadiens’ youngsters are showing their mettle.