Taking on a Las Vegas Golden Knights squad that remain unbeaten in regulation, and leading the entire NHL, it was expected to be a rough night for the Montreal Canadiens. But they managed to put together one of their best performances of the season to date, taking Vegas all the way to a shootout, outshooting and out-chancing one of the best NHL teams in the process. Though it will go down in the OTL column, maligning that loss would be silly given just how good they were against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Most notably, the top line of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard played exactly as well as any coach could hope for their best trio.
It has been a challenge figuring out who is the best option to skate on the other wing with Caufield and Suzuki. Though it remains quite early in this season, Harvey-Pinard seems to be the man they’ve been looking for. They were nearly flawless on Monday night,
After a failed power play in the third period, Martin St-Louis went back to his most dangerous line, and they didn’t disappoint. They hemmed the Golden Knights in their own zone for some time before the above goal was scored, and this was one of several occasions on the night where they had extended offensive zone time. Vegas had no answer for those three other than to hold on for dear life, and try to get their bodies into the shooting lanes, which to their credit was done quite well.
They controlled 80% of even-strength shot attempts when they were on the ice, 75% of scoring chances, and 100% of high-danger scoring chances. It was as dominant a performance you can ask for of your top line, and should warrant keeping the trio intact moving forward. Josh Anderson has worked there in stints, but not to the tune of the utter dominance they showed against one of the best teams in the league with Harvey-Pinard there. .
There are still some other areas of the lineup that need adjustments, but they should ride this top line for the foreseeable future and see what it can do over a larger sample size.
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