The Montreal Canadiens regular season may have ended with another overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers, but at least it won’t end altogether. It would have been nice to head into the playoffs on a high note, but the Oilers are quite formidable at the regular season overtime format.
The Tricolore elected to rest a large number of regular roster players in their final meaningless game of the season, and managed to largely dominate their opponents despite falling in three-on-three. In all, there was much more to like last night than there was to complain about.
In particular, the Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield connection was tantalizing.
Forming a trio with Joel Armia, they were a large part of that aforementioned domination. They accounted for eight even-strength shots on goal — four from Caufield and three from Suzuki — and put two of those shots in the net. Suzuki managed to add another for himself while short-handed, but they did the lion’s share of their work at five-on-five.
Caufield’s first goal of the night was a bad giveaway where he could simply catch and shoot, beating Mike Smith through the five-hole. Suzuki’s second goal of the night was a great display of offensive instincts.
A deflected pass leads to a loose puck in the offensive zone, and there’s no surprise that Caufield is there to find it. Suzuki goes straight to the net with his stick on the ice, and though most would expect Caufield to shoot in such a situation, he fires an easy pass that just deflects into an open net.
That goal wasn’t even their best shift. They had several outings where they hemmed the Oilers in their own zone and wouldn’t let them out. Mike Smith was a little shaky on a few goals last night, but he made some big saves on Suzuki and Caufield, so they could have produced even more than they did.
Armia’s puck retrieval and cycling abilities make him an interesting third for that duo, but there is also the possibility of inserting Tyler Toffoli to that spot and make for an all-offense exploitation line. Dominique Ducharme has time to make a decision there, and it appears he’ll have an easy time putting whoever in that spot with how good Suzuki and Caufield looked together.
Whatever you do on the other wing, it seems quite clear that those two must be kept together as they enter the playoffs.
"I thought we had a great game. Creating a lot. The chemistry is only going to get better... I like playing with guys like that." - Nick Suzuki on Cole Caufield— Jared Book (@jaredbook) May 12, 2021
Toronto’s top six will be very hard to hold down even if the Habs play their best defensive hockey. They’ll need an ace up their sleeve, and that connection could be what they need if they can get them the right minutes.
Beating Toronto is going to be quite the task, and the Canadiens could use a dynamic duo of their own to do it. They should find out if Suzuki and Caufield are that duo.