One of the most interesting moves of the Montreal Canadiens off-season was the acquisition of Sean Monahan from the Calgary Flames, in a deal that had a laundry list of conditions attached. Regardless, Kent Hughes managed to finesse a first-round pick out of the Flames to take on Monahan’s contract that has just this year remaining on it.
Throughout the pre-season, it was hard to get a gauge on where the veteran was at after recovering from yet another major surgery, his seventh since turning pro. To my eye, he did a lot of little things right, but didn’t hit the scoresheet in a truly meaningful way.
That all changed on Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Martin St-Louis paired Monahan on a line with Kirby Dach, allowing both centres to take draws if the faceoff was on their strong side. At the end of the night Monahan led either side in faceoff percentage, helping the Habs in an area they greatly struggled in the year before.
He was nearly the regulation hero, too, and while Josh Anderson won the night in that regard, Monahan’s hard work and ability to do the little things right put the Canadiens on the path to a late third-period victory.
Dach kept the play alive in the offensive zone, allowing Jordan Harris to put a shot on net that Jake Muzzin blocked. Monahan had at this point circled back through the offensive zone and slipped his coverage as well. By the time Calle Jarnkrok had realized his coverage was blown, Monahan was burying his first goal in a Canadiens uniform.
It’s just one game, but Monahan’s flexibility gave St-Louis a great piece to move all over his lineup to stabilize it as needed. It’s a huge moment for a player looking to get his career back on track after injuries derailed it for many years. Add in the fact that he was celebrating his birthday, and the goal was his first as a Hab, and it was a multi-layered bit of joy. Finishing as the leader in shot share at five-on-five for the Habs at 69.6% and with a 12-4 advantage in scoring chances is a nice bit of icing on the cake.