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Bottom Six Minutes: Habs’ top six shakeup pays dividends

Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of three concerningly ugly efforts in a row, the Montreal Canadiens needed a bounce back game. This would be no easy task to complete, as they travelled to Michigan on Thursday to meet a surprising Detroit Red Wings squad, sitting second in the Atlantic Division ahead of the game. Some positive developments would be crucial before an extremely tough back-to-back against the Bruins and Canucks this weekend.

And they certainly found some positivity, specifically though Martin St-Louis’s shakeup of the top six.

Something had to give, and for St-Louis, it was the dynamic duo of Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. It was during warm-ups that we discovered his plan to run a top line of Suzuki with Josh Anderson and Alex Newhook, with the trio of Caufield, Christian Dvorak, and Juraj Slafkovsky following them up. That top line would end up opening the scoring, though the goal itself was thanks to Mike Matheson joining the rush.

That was all the top six had for even-strength scoring on the night, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of chances. Both lines controlled 100% of high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five, and had expected goals-for percentages in the seventies. It was night and day compared to the team’s last few outings, and the new-look top six had a huge hand in making it so.

It is a small sample, so we can’t go proclaiming St-Louis a genius for the move just yet, but it demands further exploration. As mentioned, the team has an extremely tough back-to-back this weekend at the Bell Centre, and there could be no better way to find out if these trios hold up then to run them for both games and see how it works out.

If these lines can hold up against two of the best teams in the league so far this season, the Habs may have finally found the configuration they’ve been searching for since Kirby Dach’s season ended.

Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes, also available wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll have episodes for this weekend’s murderer’s row on Saturday and Sunday night, respectively.