An underrated skill of effective coaches is an ability to find positives even when overall results are below expectation.
Even though the Montreal Canadiens gave up 42 shots en route to a 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks last night, I caught glimpses of the team’s potential.
Here are two such moments.
First Period: Dictating the Pace
After being out-shot 12-2 in the first 11 minutes, MTL’s players stop forcing stretch passes through VAN’s NZ forecheck and simply play with the puck for an entire shift.
Though MTL8 Chiarot hits the post on a point shot, the Canadiens do not generate a true scoring chance on this long possession sequence.
However, by driving into the OZ, stringing passes together and playing keepaway, MTL’s five-man unit is able to wrestle control of the game and set its own pace.
MTL eventually strays from that recipe, but the one-minute shift shows how well this teams can play. If you can do it once, you can do it again.
And MTL did do it again minutes later:
Third Period: Taking Chances
I think Nick Suzuki is a very good NHLer. However, as his team’s No. 1 center, I’d like to see more.
Down 2-1 with a minute left, the normally-cautious Suzuki goes all-in. He grabs the puck behind his net, carries into the middle and bravely attacks all five VAN skaters at the offensive blue line.
It may not be the highest-percentage play, but with his team in desperate need of a goal, this is the type of game-breaking gamble that can make all the difference, the type of audible that separate stars from merely good NHLers.
MTL is unable to keep the puck in and doesn’t find an equalizer, but I point to this sequence as a sign that MTL14 has skill and will to become a franchise cornerstone.
The 2021-22 season might be a lost one for MTL, but as the law of farm says: good things take time, and there is no rushing in farming.