Montreal Canadiens: Three Takeaways from the Intra-Squad Scrimmage

Jul 22, 2020; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Montreal Canadiens coaches Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2020; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Montreal Canadiens coaches Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens held an intra-squad scrimmage at Brossard on Sunday where Team Red won 4-1 over Team White.

January 13th is quickly approaching and fans were given an opportunity to watch the new-look Montreal Canadiens in a friendly Team Red vs. Team White matchup. However, the focus of this piece will be a quick look at notable moments throughout the scrimmage that may give an indication of things to expect this season.

(1) Alexander Romanov’s Calm Demeanor

The Montreal Canadiens organization and fans alike have long awaited their chance to view one of their most highly touted prospects in action. Paired on the right side with Brett Kulak, Alexander Romanov played a smart game throughout the scrimmage. His skating was sound, he played a physical game but did not do so at the expense of his defensive duties and he made smart passes to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Romanov also saw some powerplay time where it almost looked as if he was driving the majority of the plays. It will be interesting to see if Romanov is given some of these responsibilities at the start of the season, if not later on. If Romanov is capable of translating this play to competitive matchups whilst maintaining a calm demeanor, the young defenseman will quickly become a mainstay in the Montreal Canadiens lineup.

(2) Improved Powerplay or Same Old Song and Dance?

A momentum-killer is often not a term you want to hear when describing a team’s powerplay. Unfortunately, the man advantage has been far from kind to the Canadiens in the past. Better numbers in the playoffs are reassuring but the powerplay unit has not been known to stand the test of time. It’s difficult to say whether or not the powerplay has improved by watching a team split into two that is well aware as to how to respond to their own system. Nonetheless, the way in which the Montreal Canadiens cycled the puck and showed less reliance on the blue-line Shea Weber slapshot could mean the coaching staff have finally made necessary changes. The biggest indication of an improved powerplay could be seen in newcomer Tyler Toffoli. Early into the first period, Team Red was given a man advantage saw Jonathan Drouin inevitably give his Team Red the lead. However, Tyler Toffoli’s ability to drive the puck to the net that granted Drouin the opportunity to capitalize. This same play was seen later during the scrimmage where Team Red was on the man advantage. Although they did not score in the same manner, Tyler Toffoli’s play style created several more scoring opportunities.

(3) Jesperi Kotkaniemi ‘s Confidence with the Puck

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien has made it abundantly clear in the past that Jesperi Kotkaniemi should be utilizing his shot more. If it wasn’t clear to the forward back then, it certainly is now. Throughout the scrimmage, we saw a less hesitant Jesperi Kotkaniemi when it comes to releasing the puck. This was especially noticeable on the man advantage where Kotkaniemi was slotted on the left wing who was relentless when it came from shooting the puck on that side. Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s teammates have also taken notice of the forward’s shots. Goaltender Jake Allen went on to call Kotkaniemi’s shooting “next level” after several practices. The increased volume of shots and improved accuracy could be the difference maker for Kotkaniemi at both even strength and on the powerplay, making for a potentially impressive third season for the forward.

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The Montreal Canadiens will face the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:00pm ET on January 13th.