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Three Habs thoughts following a loss to Chicago

The Habs lost, but there’s still plenty to take away from Thursday’s game.

Montreal Canadiens v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

It’s time to separate Mike Hoffman and Nick Suzuki

There’s no easy way to say this about a guy who has made an entire career out of scoring wicked goals with relative ease, but as it stands right now, Nick Suzuki and Mike Hoffman do not work on the same line.

Hoffman thrives best as a shoot-only option and as a power play weapon, and right now in Montreal he’s being attached to Suzuki on the Habs’ top line.

The above tweet illustrates why that’s been such a horrible idea so far this season. That little red box living next to the “bad” label is Hoffman away from Suzuki, and even with Montreal’s top scorer, Hoffman isn’t exactly lighting things up. At a certain point you have to admit it’s no longer a worthwhile experiment.

It’s unreasonable to expect Hoffman to thrive on a top line playing big minutes in both zones; that’s not what his game is. We know what he is right now at this point in his career, so the rest of this season should be going toward developing actual prospects like Cole Caufield or someone like Jesse Ylönen. The team is literally last in the NHL. There is nowhere else to go but up at this point.

Alexander Romanov continues to grow

In a season where the Canadiens’ defence has been in a constant state of flux, one of the few consistent pieces has been Alexander Romanov. Against the Blackhawks it was Romanov’s thunderous hit on Sam Lafferty that seemed to bring life back into Montreal’s second-period play.

Everything about Romanov’s hit is a thing of beauty. He measures up Lafferty, drives through the body, never hits the head, and times it so his victim never saw it coming. For his troubles, Romanov was jumped by Ryan Carpenter because people can’t help but fight over clean hits.

Romanov was more than just big hits though. His possession numbers were among the best in the Canadiens’ defensive group while playing a big chunk of minutes at even strength. It was a strong return for Romanov after being a scratch against the Boston Bruins, and a good way to start the young Russian’s return from the COVID list.

His ability to combine Ben Chiarot’s physicality with the mobility of Sami Niku is something Montreal should be harnessing more often. Much like the prior point, this season should be about giving the younger players more ice to grow and develop. Romanov isn’t a newbie to the professional hockey ranks, so it’s not like you’re throwing him to the wolves in this regard. At some point in the near future the team is going to be without Chiarot, and the team has to know what it has in its rising stars.

Murphy’s Law

It remains truly wild that the Montreal Canadiens continue to find amazing, heartbreaking ways to lose games. In overtime last night the Habs managed to lose not one, but two challenges on a Chicago goal.

Philipp Kurashev was tripped up by Hoffman after a turnover, and Hoffman then in turn wiped out Samuel Montembeault and the puck trickled over the line. Based on the NHL rulebook, because the puck was heading between the goal posts (or where the posts were), it counted, but then the play had to be reviewed for offside. Despite the offside rule being rather confusing (at least to my brain), the play was ruled onside and the Habs lost yet again.

It’s almost hilarious how the Canadiens continue to find new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Hopefully Samuel Montembeault is alright, as he looked a bit shaken up after being run over by Kurashev and Hoffman. However, Murphy’s Law continues to haunt Montreal as every little thing that can go wrong in a season is something that will actually happen to this NHL team.