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Canadiens win, Jets lose: Sean who?
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

For the first time since the return of the All-Star break, Martin St-Louis’ men were in action yesterday in Washington.

Naturally, we’d be keeping a close eye on the group’s level of effort. Sometimes, after such a long break, it takes a little time to get the machine up and running again.

But we quickly realized that even if the execution wasn’t always perfect, the guys showed up to work at the start of the game. That explains the 5-2 victory, in fact.

Right from the first period, we sensed that the best wanted to be the best. Nick Suzuki, who represented the Canadiens at the last All-Star Game, looked like he was playing with Boone Jenner again yesterday: his two quick goals were important.

Trickery aside, we know his chemistry with Cole Caufield, and yesterday, that’s what led to the first goal.

The difference is that this time, it was Caufield who picked up the puck in the neutral zone, went up to the net, looked at his shooting options before choosing to make a deft pass to his captain, who wasn’t asking for much.

Suzuki then rose to score his team’s second goal, once again with a National League shot.

The captain may not have scored his first career hat trick, but the way he took to the ice inspired his teammates.

Even Michael Pezzetta joined the party in the first, getting what became his first career winning goal and chasing good old Charlie Lindgren out of the game.

Then, in the last two periods, other important players stepped up.

Samuel Montembeault came to mind, facing 39 shots, including 34 in the last 40 minutes of the game. You won’t be surprised to learn that, after scoring three goals, the Habs took their foot off the gas at times… #ToCorrect

We can think of Juraj Slafkovsky, who scored his team’s last two goals and looked confident. His two excellent shots earned him not only his father’s approval, but also two goals in an NHL game for the first time in his career.

David Sauveur Savard came to mind, playing goalie again and demonstrating just how useful he is to this club. Monty owes him one, by the way.

But what I remember most about this game is that the players who had to stand up did. We can also mention Mike Matheson and his 27 minutes of play, and several other guys.

And why was it important? Because it was the Canadiens’ first game without Sean Monahan.

As you know, the Winnipeg Jets paid a first-round pick for Monahan to finish the season. This hurts the Habs in the short term, and nobody wants to hide from that fact.

We had to see how the guys would stand up without him. And they obviously did.

Obviously, it won’t always be like this. There will be tougher games where having an experienced left-handed center like him would have helped a lot at the end of the season.

But yesterday, the Habs looked good… and Monahan’s Jets were shut out against Pittsburgh. Sean who? #Blague

If there’s one player we’ve been keeping an eye on, it’s Brandon Gignac. After all, the newly signed Quebecer was playing his second NHL game, and he was doing so by piloting the second unit.

Before Alex Newhook came back, it was kind of him, by default, who had the big job of replacing Sean Monahan. I know, I know: it’s a team thing… but he’s the top-9 center replacing Monahan, isn’t he?

And how did Gignac perform?

He did well. He clearly had the confidence of Martin St-Louis, who had a similar journey to the NHL 25 years ago. His 14:54 minutes of playing time show that very well. He stood out for his speed and looked right at home. That’s what we wanted to see.

But that’s not all we have to remember about that game in Washington… against a club that didn’t seem to realize that the game started at around 7 p.m.

So what do I remember?

1. The Capitals were disorganized at the start of the game. Letting the Habs shoot 14 times in the opening period and only getting off five shots is in the category of things that just can’t be accepted.

This morning, on BPM Sports, Gilbert Delorme pointed out how the Capitals looked like a club that didn’t really know where to go, wondering if Spencer Carbery was the right man for the job behind the bench.

It’s true that seeing Alex Ovechkin play the way he does, one wonders whether the club is well coached.

Renaud Lavoie was also right to mention that the Caps, who lost four games in a row before their break, had to win against the Habs. After all, the Panthers, Bruins, Canucks and Avalanche will be on the menu before facing the Habs again on February 17.

In other words, on paper, yesterday’s game was the perfect opportunity for the Capitals, who need to win games to have any hope of making the playoffs, to get back on the winning track.

They just figured it out an hour too late… much to the chagrin of the Quebec chickens. #5Buts8Ailes

2. Another good point from Lavoie: Samuel Montembeault, since being crossed by the Bruins on January 20, has managed to bounce back and find his bearings.

He won against the Islanders at home and yesterday in Washington. Will he get one of two starts this weekend? For sure.

3. We talked about Juraj Slafkovsky’s two goals yesterday. But in his last 21 games, he has 15 points. We’re talking seven goals (he’s getting more confident with his shot) and eight assists since the December 16 game in New York.

That’s probably not what he chatted about with the Slovakian ambassador who came to talk to him after yesterday’s game, but whatever.

4. Shall we go with a slightly dishonest phrase for the Habs, who had lost their last game before the break? Yes or no? I’ll go even if you say no.

Martin St-Louis’ men are on a better winning streak than the Oilers, who lost for the first time in 17 games yesterday.

5. We talked about Charlie Lindgren, who was ex-officio for the Capitals. But little was said about Joel Edmundson, another Habs alumnus who faced his former team yesterday.

He played over 16 minutes against the Flannel. That’s it: I’ve talked about him.

Extension

Yesterday’s game affected the standings. After all, picking up two points like that means that teams are no longer in the same position as they were the day before.

Here are the standings.

(Credit: Tankathon)

Ah, it’s not the ranking you had in mind? However, in light of the Sean Monahan transaction, I think it’s probably the one that management is looking at the most.

Here’s the one the players look at – or the one they don’t.

(Credit: NHL)
The Habs were scheduled to head for Montreal last night, as they usually do after a game. However, as Renaud Lavoie reported, the plane that was supposed to take them back to Montreal had a problem, forcing the club to stay in the U.S. overnight.

It remains to be seen what time the boys will set foot in Montreal.

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