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Samuel Montembeault reminds the Canadiens (and Oilers) of their importance
Credit: Samuel Montembeault is scheduled to play for the first time in 9 days tonight.

Last night, the Montreal Canadiens were in Anaheim… and let’s just say they had no choice but to win. In theend, they did, 4-3.

But why? Because the club just couldn’t keep up the losing streak.

After four straight setbacks last week, Martin St-Louis’ men couldn’t put in another ordinary performance in their first game on Californian soil.

Last week, especially on Saturday, the effort wasn’t always there. This was evident in training sessions, including Monday’s, which had the air of a punishment.

But on the ice last night, the guys were there from the start. In the first period, the guys had wings.

Obviously, taking a 2-0 lead helped a lot, but you could tell the boys understood the importance of the moment. Were they inspired by the Alouettes and their Grey Cup?

But in the second period, it was the Ducks who understood the importance of the moment. In the first minute, they scored a power play goal (their only of the game). They were there to play.

And that’s where Samuel Montembeault’s importance came into play. From then on, the goaltender redoubled his efforts to keep the CH in the game. He did so with some spectacular saves that made the rounds on the web, of course…

But he also did it by being solid in general. His 30 saves on 33 shots kept his team in the game and allowed the CH to win their first game in 60 minutes since David Savard was injured. That was a month ago.

It may be hard to pick him out of the pool when you know he’s in the middle of a ménage à trois and Martin St-Louis won’t publicly give him the title of #1, but he’s clearly demonstrating that he’s a goalie who can eat minutes.

We know that the Oilers are interested in the Quebec goalie (as is the case with many NHL goalies, let’s say), and in light of the club’s big loss yesterday, we wonder when the club will finally make a move.

And CH fans know it. When Monty made a fine save, many fans decided to remind the Oilers that the Quebec goaltender, who would cost the moon if traded, is just what the Alberta outfit needs.

But hey. In the end, Montembeault wasn’t the only player who stood out during the game against the Ducks. Several of them did well in this first game in the West.

What do I remember?

1. Alex Newhook was very good yesterday. In addition to his two goals (which is already a lot, let’s face it), we felt he was involved. In fact, his first period was very good.

Seeing him play with Nick Suzuki and Brendan Gallagher won’t last long in my opinion (it’s a small first trio), but yesterday it worked. Gally also looked good yesterday.

2. The game was… imperfect.

On the one hand, there were some good moments, including the way the Habs won their battles for the puck on the club’s first two goals, but there were also some imperfections defensively.

Montembeault looked like Carey Price: able to pull out the mitt and hide the club’s imperfections in the process. And the longer the game went on, the more the Ducks shot.

They finished with 33 shots, five more than the CH, who led 13-6 at one point.

3. Jayden Struble didn’t look like an NHL rookie. He wasn’t overly stressed (he probably was, but it didn’t show) and played a simple game .

His 11 appearances on the ice (11:20) were effective. And that’s just as well, since Johnathan Kovacevic didn’t have it last night.

Having Mike Matheson and Kaiden Guhle in front of him on the left probably helped, as they ate up minutes – and each had a goal – en masse, but still.

Struble, who was the first CH player this year to make his NHL debut, played with confidence with the puck.

4. Speaking of playing time: Michael Pezzetta and Jesse Ylönen could have showered after 40 minutes of play and it wouldn’t have made much difference.

Martin St-Louis shortened his bench in the third period… and it worked.

5. Tanner Pearson got his first point since November 2. Is there a forward we’ve talked about less than him in Montreal over the past few weeks? I don’t think there is.

That said, Josh Anderson still hasn’t found the back of the net, despite playing time on the power play. It’s worth noting that his regular trio has been quite ordinary, thank you.

6. The Anaheim Ducks have a bright future. There’s a lot of talk about Tristan Luneau in Quebec, who picked up his first NHL point yesterday, but Mason McTavish stole the show yesterday.

What a hockey player!

7. I don’t know what it’s going to take to help Cole Caufield(actually, I think I have a little idea: give him Sean Monahan), but the CH’s little scorer looks lost.

He looks discouraged at times.


At 1 p.m. California time, the guys will practice. This will be the last training session before a short one, since tomorrow the boys will play in San Jose at 12:30 p.m. California time.

Next day? Game at 1 p.m. in Los Angeles (Western time) and rookie dinner in the evening.

We’ll have to watch this afternoon’s training session to draw any conclusions. But since the CH only has 12 forwards on hand, and the defensemen don’t deserve to go out in favor of Mattias Norlinder…

In the end, we’ll have to keep an eye on the goalies. Of course.

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