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When the first trio doesn’t score, the Canadiens can’t win
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot
For several weeks now, the Habs have been talking a lot about their first trio. Nick Suzuki, Juraj Slafkovsky and Cole Caufield are clearly the driving forces behind this team.

Even if they’re probably not all fully healthy.

But yesterday, in a 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, we saw that without the contribution of the first trio, it’s just not the same game. We saw that the Habs don’t have the depth to win.

If you look at the club’s nine forwards who don’t play on the first line, none of them has scored a single goal. After all, it was defensemen Arber Xhekaj and Jayden Struble who scored the Flanelle’s only goals yesterday.

Even if the Habs have defensemen who score at an insane rate, we know that’s not sustainable and that’s not how you win games in the NHL.

But back to the first trio.

Yesterday, Cole Caufield didn’t look like a guy who was in the best of health, even if he did say he was 100% fit after a few off-duty practices over the past few days.

Should he skip his turn to take the time to heal up, given that the season is underway? It’s a legitimate question.

Even if we don’t know what’s wrong with him.

Juraj Slafkovsky, meanwhile, is a player learning to play in the NHL, but also learning to deal with the fact that he’s big, fat and strong. And yesterday, he learned that the hard way.

And why? Because he took three minor penalties for indiscipline.

But it’s hard to fault captain Nick Suzuki yesterday. While playing with two guys who didn’t have it at all, he was still excellent over 200 feet.

And Martin St-Louis noticed.

He was all over the ice. – Martin St-Louis on Nick Suzuki

He was good at face-offs. He played a lot. He was good for 200 feet. He took a lot of shots on goal. In short, he worked hard, but without breaking through the wall of a goalie who’s on fire in Buffalo these days.

His big defensive collapse in the second period (the one everyone’s talking about) is a prime example.

So, in the end, while Suzuki played well, he was the only one performing on his trio. And when that trio isn’t working, let’s just say it’s hard to see the Habs winning hockey games.

But that’s okay: the Habs won’t make the playoffs…

That said, it’s not just the performance of the first trio that deserves analysis following last night’s duel, which was the first of a series of three games in four nights.

So, what can I take away from this game?

1. Arber Xhekaj played his best NHL game of the season. He was involved, he scored a goal, he was tough without getting his team in trouble on the ice and in the penalty box. He played as if he were still facing an AHL team, because it looked so easy.

When the going gets tough again, he’ll have to go back to that game to remind himself just how dominant he can be, when he wants to be.

2. Speaking of playing a big game: Joshua Roy, for the first time in his NHL career, collected two points. We’re talking about two great assists – especially the first one – and the guy who was on the ice six-on-four late in the game was involved.

It was undoubtedly his best game in the NHL. Even though I know the sample size is still small.

I watch him play and I think he’s capable of playing with Alex Newhook. It’s a shame it’s being done with Josh Anderson right now… but that’s another debate.

Both young players have great potential and want to fight for a place in the top-6 of the future. Could Kirby Dach be their center next year? #JoshuaRoyOuJoelArmia

3. The special units weren’t special yesterday. The Habs were 0-in-4 on the power play and even allowed the Sabres to score when they were a man short.

The visitors to the Bell Centre were 1-in-3 on the power play.

4. Samuel Montembeault wasn’t always helped by his defense, and he gave up three points in the game. He played very well early in the game, but when the Sabres opened the valves, he couldn’t stop them.

He didn’t do badly under the circumstances… and at some point, when Jeff Skinner faces the Habs, he has to score. I don’t make up the rules either, you know.

5. The Laval Rocket (shootout win) were in action in Laval at the same time as the Habs were playing at the Bell Centre. It’s not ideal, but you have to live with it. That said, Jean-François Houle’s men played in front of a good crowd. #7820Fans

And meanwhile, the Montreal club of the women’s league lost 4-3 in a shootout in New York.

6. For a bottom-of-the-table game, it was ideal for the fans who came out to the Bell Centre. After all, the show was on point. The guys were giving it their all on the ice. There was intensity and breaststroke. There were a few goals.

And above all, no ranking points.

Extended time

After yesterday’s game, the Canadiens travelled to Pittsburgh for tonight’s game against the Penguins. The Penguins will have to win if they want to make the playoffs.Or is it already too late for them?

Will the Habs, who traveled (and crossed the border) last night, have legs tonight?

The Canadiens, who have lost five of their seven games so far this month, will have the night off. Martin St-Louis will speak to the media around noon to provide an update.

Will he announce the departure of Cayden Primeau?

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