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Canadiennes Notebook: Firing on all cylinders

After a slow start against Calgary, Montreal’s offence started to find the net.

Shanna Martin / CWHL

After scoring only three goals in their first two games of the season, Les Canadiennes found the back of the net 12 times in their two games against the defending champion Markham Thunder.

This isn’t a small feat. The ability that Montreal was able to score with against the calibre of Markham’s defence is significant, especially since they struggled so much in the playoffs against a similar team last year.

Of course, this Montreal team had the addition of Mélodie Daoust, Marie-Philip Poulin and Jillian Saulnier. But they also proved how hard it will be to stop them once they get going.

Markham has three of the better defenders in the entire CWHL. Laura Fortino, Jocelyne Larocque and Megan Bozek are all very good defenders, but they were not able to stop Montreal in the two games.

The thing with Montreal's top forwards is that not only are they fast, not only are they skilled, but they are also very responsible defensively. Poulin and Daoust may be two of the best two-way forwards in all of women's hockey. Saulnier and Hilary Knight are also players who are very conscious of both sides of the ice. So even if you do get the puck when they are on the ice, it is hard to exploit them.

I'm not saying it is impossible to stop Montreal. But they can't be exploited like other teams can be exploited. It will take a creative approach and skill alone won't beat this team. You need to come up with a game plan. And with four power play goals over the weekend, they are quickly proving you can't take penalties to slow them down, either.

Motivation in the CWHL

When a league is as close as the CWHL is, and the talent is abundant on every team, sometimes a little extra boost goes a long way.

In 2016, the Calgary Inferno were playing for their first Clarkson Cup and had several veterans close to retirement. They came out as the underdogs and steamrolled Montreal in the final.

The next year, Montreal wanted to win the Clarkson Cup very badly. They wanted to come out and avenge their heartbreaking loss from the year before. They did exactly that.

Last year, Markham was facing a team that had eliminated them in the previous year's playoffs and had a group of veterans that had never played for a Clarkson Cup. They came out and beat Montreal in the semi final en route to an overtime win in the final.

That isn't to say that the losing teams in any of these scenarios didn't want to win. they very obviously did. But when you have that little extra boost, it definitely makes a difference.

Last year, after their semi-final loss, Caroline Ouellette said that the Thunder had a chip on their shoulder. She said that they reminded her of the Montreal team in 2017 with the way they just wanted it more.

In the weekend series with Markham last week, Montreal had that bit of revenge and wanted to send a message. It wasn't something that was said, but it didn't have to be said. Dany Brunet, Montreal's head coach said that he thought about and he likely wasn't the only one. Emerance Maschmeyer said they wanted to come out strong.

Obviously a weekend series in October doesn't avenge a playoff exit, but it does point to the interesting aspect of "revenge" when it comes to the CWHL and the extra boost teams get with it. To that point, the last team to win back-to-back Clarkson Cup championships was Montreal back in 2011 and 2012.

The Boston Blades made three straight championships, winning two, but lost the middle one in overtime to the Toronto Furies in 2014. Montreal also made three straight championships from 2015-2017, winning only the last one.

"Each game we play is so close," Maschmeyer said. "Any little motivation and momentum that we get, we have to take it and run because the games are close and it's a matter of one or two shots."

A consistent lineup

For the two weekends so far, Montreal has sent out near identical lineups. This is how they lined up in the second of two games against Markham.

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
15- Mélodie Daoust 29- Marie Philip Poulin 24- Ann-Sophie Bettez
21- Hilary Knight 16- Sarah Lefort 11- Jill Saulnier
76- Karell Emard 19- Katia Clement-Heydra 9- Kim Deschênes
18- Geneviève Bannon 78- Tracy-Ann Lavigne 22- Maude Gelinas

Defence

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
27- Taylor Willard 14- Erin Ambrose
5- Lauriane Rougeau 12- Catherine Daoust
17- Melanie Desrochers 23- Sophie Brault

The only changes between the two games was swapping Sophie Brault and Marie-Joelle Allard on the third pairing. They each have played two of the four games so far.

On the forward side, Geneviève Bannon played in her first two CWHL games this weekend replacing Olivia Atkinson. Atkinson played the two games against Calgary.

Head coach Dany Brunet switched the lines up a bit in the second game against Calgary to find a spark, but went right back to the regular lines as they try and develop chemistry. Complicating the creation of chemistry is the fact that due to some of the players schedules, they aren't all able to attend all of the team's two practices per week.

It's an additional challenge, but a benefit is that the team gets to play the first three weekends of the season to get off to a solid start.

Maschmeyer has played in all four games this season and has looked very good. Geneviève Lacasse has yet to play a game, and hasn't been dressed yet, potentially due to an injury. There is no official word from the team.


Montreal now gets set for their first road trip of the season in Toronto to face the Toronto Furies for the first time this season. Saturday's game, starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern will be streamed on CWHL Live.