clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Montreal Canadiens are in this together

The reaction to the hit on Juraj Slafkovský was a clear indication that this year is different from the last.

NHL: NOV 01 Canadiens at Wild Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When Juraj Slafkovský was pushed into the boards awkwardly by Marco Rossi of the Minnesota Wild in the third period of Tuesday’s game, there was no call on the play. Perhaps Slafkovsky should have protected himself better and not allowed himself to be vulnerable in no man’s land, but after the hit, the Montreal Canadiens’ bench reacted angrily. The players who were on the ice all acted in unison to come to the defence of their fallen teammate who was slowly gathering his senses and crawling off the ice.

Chris Wideman came in hot with a crosscheck, and Jake Evans jumped into the fray immediately trying to get to Rossi, only to have Mason Shaw grab him for the fight. When Rossi was back on the ice for his next shift, it was Arber Xhekaj’s turn to pursue him, to try and gain retribution, resulting in another melee.

This level of emotion and response from the Canadiens to one of their own being hurt shows that this team, as young as it is, as inexperienced as the players are, are on this ride together.

Compare this to last season’s lack of emotion as players skated half-heartedly into a fray, just to wait for a referee to tell everyone to stop, so that they could skate away and to the bench to take a seat. This lack of teammate support was highlighted by Jeff Petry’s inaction when Zack Kassian ran over Samuel Montembeault, although Petry did later say that he didn’t really see the hit. The team was broken, and the players no longer believed in fighting for a common direction and purpose.

The reaction to the Slafkovsky hit on Tuesday showed that the players this season are emotionally invested in the direction that the team is headed, and that’s a very good sign, because in a development season you want all the young players to be surrounded by a positive environment. That’s the culture that they will build upon and grow in as the Canadiens hopefully emerge from developing franchise to contender.