There was a lot of expected rust and some kinks in the Montreal Canadiens’ play on Wednesday night in Toronto. Some lines seemed a bit off, some passes missed by just a bit, and across the board there were some things that needed to be smoothed out.
There were also some aspects that clicked almost immediately, most notably the Canadiens’ second line of Josh Anderson, Christian Dvorak, and Jonathan Drouin. From the opening puck drop the speed of Anderson stretched the Toronto defence with ease, while Drouin and Dvorak took that space to find open areas to occupy for scoring chances.
The three players were among the few above water in terms of possession, something that hasn’t really been a strong part of Anderson’s game in the past. The group gained the zone, held the zone, and piled up a team-leading amount of scoring chances when they were in there. While Dvorak did a lot of the little things right, the synergy between Drouin and Anderson is what stood out the most.
The Habs’ lone goal of the night came off an impressive bit of work started by Anderson, and finished off by Drouin in his return to regular-season action.
Dvorak got things in motion by separating a Toronto player from the puck, and with Anderson lurking just behind the hit he was able to collect the free puck and turn up ice. With just Justin Holl back defending the two-on-one, the Canadiens found themselves in a perfect scoring situation. Last year, Anderson likely would have called his own number resulting in a lower percentage play. Instead, he held the puck long enough to move Holl into a vulnerable spot, and then threw a pass across the goalmouth for Drouin to tap home.
It’s a nice bit of patience and finesse from Anderson, and a huge goal for Drouin after his time away from the sport. With the top line having a quiet night, Dominique Ducharme needed a group to step up, and very quickly it was the Dvorak, Drouin, Anderson trio.
The instant chemistry between the three of them is the big positive from a season-opening loss, and it’ll be something the Habs will lean on as the season wears on.