Canadiens: 24 Thoughts On Habs Near Miss In Game 30

Dec 16, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Joel Armia.
Dec 16, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Joel Armia. / Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
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The Montreal Canadiens hosted their final game of 2023 last night as they welcomed the New York Islanders to the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens entered the game with a 12-13-4 record and though they struggle to win games in regulation, they do keep finding ways to add a point here and there in the standings. A win in this game would bring them back to .500 and on pace for an 82 point season.

Here are 24 thoughts on the Canadiens game versus the Islanders as we watch it.

First Period Thoughts

Sam Montembeault gets the start in goal. This is his second start in a row which is a rare occurence with the three goalie rotation going on in Montreal. The Hurricanes put a goaltender on waivers yesterday so maybe they are looking to add one? Jake Allen to Carolina anyone?

Top line of Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Juraj Slafkovsky looked good early on. First shift of the game and they were all over the Islanders. This line is going to have to deal with a lot of difficult matchups this season as the Habs don't really have a second line that can score. Will be interesting to see if they can start to find the back of the net more frequently soon.

Michael Pezzetta was cross checked in the back at center ice without every having touched the puck, yet there was no call. I know you can't expect referees to be 100% consistent, but can we expect them to always call someone for cross checking an opponent in the back even though that player never touched the puck? I guess not.

Caufield batted the puck out of midair on a rebound but it was stopped by Semyon Varlamov. When you watch Caufield, you think he would have a couple of goals every night, but he had seven in first 29 games this season. That's barely a 20 goal pace which can't continue as he seems to be getting chances from all over the offensive zone on a nightly basis.

Vintage Brendan Gallagher in front but just couldn't get the puck to roll over the line. Nice to see him drive the net like he did, get a tip on the puck (which hit the post) and then battle for the rebound which he slid pretty much to the goal line before it hit a defenseman's skate blade and just barely stayed out long enough for Varlamov to pounce on it.

Speaking of Varlamov, if the Canadiens are going to carry three goaltenders, they should consider getting at least one that is as good as the Islanders backup. The Russian veteran is sporting a .921 save percentage in his first ten games of the season and is clearly second fiddle on Long Island to Ilya Sorokin.

Jayden Struble looks like a machine on NHL ice. He just flies through the neutral zone with the puck and though he didn't score in the opening period, he did a subtle little toe drag to change the angle of his release before firing a bullet of a wrist shot on goal. Hard to believe he had just one goal in 31 college games last season.

Joel Armia is well known as a defensive forward that is great in his own end but he did not look good when stuck in a defenseman's position. He turned the puck over the offensive zone and ended up being the last man back on a rush the other way. Brock Nelson made a subtle little stickhandle and Armia just watch him skate by with full control as Nelson got a tremendous scoring chance that was turned aside by Montembeault.