About Last Night: Familiar St. Louis fire leads to a Habs win in Tampa
With the caveat that the Tampa Bay Lightning were on the second half of a back-to-back, the Montreal Canadiens took it to them on Saturday night while the game was at even strength. Playing the role of spoiler and doing a favour for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens were the better team for most of the game on the road against the two-time reigning Stanley Cup Champions. No Ben Chiarot, no Brett Kulak, no Jeff Petry, no Chris Wideman, no Artturi Lehkonen, no Brendan Gallagher. That’s four of their top-six defencemen since Martin St. Louis took over, a hard minutes matchup forward who was also putting up points, and a frustrated but still territorially dominant forward.
Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is credited with saying: “You can’t win unless you learn how to lose,” and that could well be the Canadiens’ mantra as they put the finishing touches on one of the most disappointing seasons in the team’s history.
Montreal lost their fifth consecutive game Saturday, running out of steam midway through the game and dropping an 8-4 decision to the playoff-bound Washington Capitals.
What the Puck: For Canadiens fans, Shea Weber's silence speaks volumes
Shea Weber was nowhere to be seen Monday. Once again. It was team photo day for the Montreal Canadiens and, sure enough, Weber was missing in action. Like he has been since Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final last July when the Tampa Bay Lightning beat Weber’s Habs to take home their second straight championship. It really is outrageous. Weber is still captain of the Canadiens. Yet he hasn’t appeared publicly this season at the Bell Centre, not even for opening night when all of the players were introduced, and he has not uttered a word to journalists since the playoffs ended.
But head coach Martin St. Louis said there are valuable lessons his players can learn over the remaining six regular-season games.
“I feel like where we are right now, especially me as a coach, you try to help the young players with their game, and everyone has holes in their games that they will attack this summer,” St. Louis said.
“They will work out x, y and z with whatever coach they have on their own. A lot of guys have skill coaches, development coaches, whatever, and plus with the Canadiens we have that, but I tell the guys whatever you do this summer, you cannot duplicate the reps you’re getting right now.
“So these reps are important and, sometimes, some reps aren’t as good as you like them to be, but you learn from them,” St. Louis added. “It’s our job working with young players to be careful in teaching them hard and (not) killing confidence. It’s a fine line and you want to be constructive with the young guys to a point, but also to have a plan for them to grow as players.”
Canadiens Notebook: Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki continue to bond
Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have become best buddies on and off the ice. So it’s fitting that the Canadiens announced Tuesday morning the young forwards are co-winners of the Molson Cup for the month of March, based on three-star game selections. In 15 games last month, the 22-year-old Suzuki had 7-10-17 totals, was named the first star once, second star once and third star twice. Caufield, 21, had 7-8-15 totals in March and was named first star once, second star twice and third star once.
St. Louis said he hoped players like defenceman Alexander Romanov would benefit from playing hard minutes against high-end skilled players. Romanov led all Montreal defencemen with nearly 23 minutes of ice time and finished the game minus-3.
He wasn’t the only young player to to struggle. Nick Suzuki scored his 20th goal, but he continues to need work on his defence. He also finished minus-3, gave the puck away four times and won only 42 per cent of his faceoffs. He leads the team in scoring, but he also has the worst plus/minus numbers at minus-30.
Sam Montembeault took another step back in his quest to prove he has a future in the NHL. He gave up eight goals on 41 shots and, under other circumstances he might have been pulled. That wasn’t gong to happen because the backup is Carey Price, who made his season debut Friday after a prolonged recovery from knee surgery.
“I didn’t want to pull Sam,” St. Louis said. “I know it was a hard game for Sam and we didn’t make it easy for him. There were a lot of bounces that made it hard for him and I thought it was too advanced in the game to even consider it.”
Canucks' Nils Hoglander, Tucker Poolman could be out for season
Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau spoke to reporters Tuesday, saying that he believes forward Nils Hoglander and defenseman Tucker Poolman could be done for the 2021-22 season.Hoglander, 21, last played on March 15 against the New Jersey Devils. He was listed as day-to-day with a groin injury two days later, and his status was downgraded to week-to-week on March 30.
Ryan Poehling had a strong game. He scored two goals and won six of his nine faceoffs, while Jake Evans scored his 11th goal of the season and won nine of 15 faceoffs.
“I think we just shot ourselves in the foot,” Evans said. “The whole game we were taking bad penalties and we put ourselves in bad positions and it caught up to us in the third period. Last night against the Islanders, I think our D-zone play was really good because we were tracking back and forcing harder dumps, forcing turnovers so we didn’t have to play defence as much.
“Tonight, they’re a skilled team and a lot of those players are fast and strong and can make some good plays,” Evans added. “For us, it’s being engaged and looking out for each other.”
About Last Night: Farewell, Mike Bossy. Welcome back, Carey Price .
It was an emotional Friday night at the Bell Centre well beyond the scoreboard, which read 3-0 for the New York Islanders over the Montreal Canadiens, if you were wondering. Earlier in the day, Hall of Famer and Montreal native Mike Bossy passed away at the age of 65 . Coincidentally, or perhaps prophetically enough, his Islanders were in town to face the Montreal Canadiens. Starting in goal for the Habs for the first time this season was Carey Price . Price last suited up in the Stanley Cup finals, and his road back involved setbacks from offseason knee surgery and time away in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.