Confidence in the Montreal Canadiens’ locker room had to be at an all-time high after their masterpiece of a game against the Bruins on Saturday night. Even so, with one of the best teams in the Western Conference visiting less than 24 hours later, there wasn’t much time for them to pat themselves on the back. Unfortunately, whatever confidence they had the night prior didn’t translate much into Sunday night, culminating in a 5-2 loss.
Juraj Slafkovsky started the night looking like his personal confidence was at an all-time low, but managed to turn things around drastically by the end of the night.
He surely didn’t read my tweet, but did he ever get the message. He finished the game tied with Josh Anderson for the team lead with six shots on goal, looking much less hesitant for the rest of the night. With more shooting volume should eventually come production, so this is something the coaching staff will have to continue preaching with Slafkovsky.
The lack of finish is a tad concerning, and there are some things he can do to try and improve the quality of his shots. He doesn’t appear to try changing the angle of his release very often, which makes it easier for goaltenders to read, or defenders to get in front of. If the confidence to shoot is there, perhaps the next thing they can work on with him is adding some deception to his releases. He led the team in shot attempts with 10, so there was opportunity there for him to create even more chances if he can tweak the way he’s shooting.
Though imperfect, this game was a good building block for him. On top of the shots, he was very engaged physically, and has seemed a lot more willing and able to use his frame to his advantage this season. That was largely absent from his game last year, and again is something the coaching staff should be encouraging at every turn.
It is at times easy to forget that this is a 19-year-old kid who is still extremely young in his NHL career. He’s still eligible for the World Juniors if the team has a mind to make him available for Slovakia, and whether or not they do, it’s important not to expect perfection every night from a player that young.
There are positive signs, and it’s on the coaching staff to make those positive signs constants in his game.
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