With how hectic the Montreal Canadiens’ off-season was, it would be a Herculean task to nail down the move that galvanized the Habs fanbase more than any other. Yet the arrival of top prospect Alexander Romanov might just be that move by Marc Bergevin that takes the title.
Romanov made the opening night lineup, pencilled into the third pair alongside the ever-reliable Brett Kulak from the start of training camp. The duo was steady, which is to be expected from Kulak at this point in his Canadiens tenure.
As the game wore on, it was Romanov who took charge on the pairing and before long he had put an authoritative stamp on his debut. Not only did he play the second-most minutes in all situations (22:49), just behind captain Shea Weber, he did so in all situations. He played just shy of 17 minutes at even strength, and the second-most time on the power play (behind Weber again). By the end of the game he appeared to be next to Jeff Petry on the second pair, eating up minutes as the team pushed for overtime.
He kept his possession metrics above 50% in those hefty minutes, finishing fifth on the team in Corsi-for percentage at five-on-five. He wasn’t there just because others were struggling; Romanov earned his minutes by legitimately being one of the best players on the Canadiens roster Wednesday night.
A few defensive hiccups dotted his game, which is to be expected, but what stood out was that he played with the confidence of a 10-year veteran. His passes were crisp, he made reads quickly, and asserted himself quite well in all three zones. His stretch pass to Tomas Tatar for a power-play goal was a statement if I’ve ever seen one.
The newly turned 21-year-old showed no signs of being intimidated by the NHL after his debut, nor should he have been. With solid power-play time, and a massive amount of confidence, there’s a lot to be excited about.
There was a lot of waiting and nervous hand-wringing that Alexander Romanov might not be joining the Habs. After last night, the Tsar has arrived, and he’s looking to claim his spot on the throne in Montreal.