Canadiens still have corrections to make despite slump-busting win vs. Coyotes

Mike Hoffman played the hero with his overtime goal to lift the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Matias Macelli ramped up his speed through the neutral zone, took advantage of a set play from Jakob Chychrun to Lawson Crouse, and then blew right through coverage to bust in all alone on Samuel Montembeault and score on the Arizona Coyotes’ 25th shot of Monday’s game. 

It was allowed by the Montreal Canadiens with 12:38 remaining in the second period, if you happened to miss this game because of its 10 p.m. ET start and were wondering what it was like for the visitors to Mullett Arena. That 26-year-old centre Christian Dvorak was burned on it, and not one of Montreal’s more inexperienced players, says much about the type of sequence this team is on. 

If the veteran, who spent the first four of his seven seasons in the NHL with the Coyotes, hadn’t scored Montreal’s second goal just minutes before Macelli struck, the Canadiens wouldn’t have halted their losing streak at three games with this 3-2 win.

But the result can’t blur the truth, which coach Martin St. Louis said (after Saturday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and once again before Monday’s game) was most important to face in order for the Canadiens to continue to grow as a team. 

“You’re not going to get the results that you want all the time,” the coach said after the morning skate. “Let’s be honest and truthful about why we’re not getting it and address that before moving forward. I think that’s what we’re doing. It’s amazing how we felt we had it all figured out after the first period of the Ottawa game (last week), and then for the last eight periods it’s three losses in a row. So, sometimes you think you have it all figured out and then, poof, it’s gone for whatever reason. 

“I think for a lot of these games we’ve been taking too many penalties which is not allowing us to play our five-on-five game, which I feel has been pretty solid for the most part, and we’re working on that. But to your point of how we avoid extending a losing streak, it’s honesty and truth in where we are and what we have to address and take care of that.”

The Canadiens have to acknowledge they didn’t do that through the first two periods of this game, that they allowed several Coyotes to go unchecked, gave up goals to Nick Schmaltz and Macelli through careless defence, and that it wasn’t just the kids making the mistakes on those plays.

They took a step toward correcting that through a strong third and escaped overtime after Mike Hoffman scored on a wrist shot from the high slot, but they can’t ignore the way they forced Montembeault to come up with miracles through the first 40 minutes to put them in position to win.

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The Canadiens can’t ignore they were being badly outshot by a team that gives up the third-most shots against per game, they can’t ignore the bad penalties they took to surrender as much momentum as they did in the first period, and they can’t be satisfied just because they won.

“It wasn’t our best game,” said Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin.

The Canadiens will need much better against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday and the Dallas Stars on Friday.

“For sure, it wasn’t a perfect game for us,” said St. Louis, “and we know. I felt we got better as the game went on. … We’ll have to keep improving on it.”

Anthony Richard makes strong first impression

Monday’s game was Anthony Richard’s third NHL game, his first with the team he grew up cheering for, and he made himself noticed on virtually all 14 of his shifts. 

It didn’t take St. Louis long to respond to what he saw. 

Still going on eastern time, Richard was moved from the fourth line to the second 30 minutes before turning 26 years old—a reward that came at 18-year-old Juraj Slafkovsky’s expense. 

The kid wasn’t going in Arizona, but Richard was.

Promoting him from the Laval Rocket, after he scored 18 goals, sent a message throughout the organization that players will get what they earn. 

That matters.

“It’s not just important for the guys down there, but also for the guys up here to realize there’s always someone pushing to take your place,” said St. Louis.

It happens within a game, too. Hence Richard moving up after getting two shots on net and two really good scoring chances to score his first NHL goal.

As for Slafkovsky, he’ll have to simplify his game and regain his focus in Colorado, and his good play will be rewarded too.

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