Montreal Canadiens: 24 Thoughts On Habs Holding On For Win In Game 31

Dec 18, 2023; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Josh Anderson
Dec 18, 2023; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Josh Anderson / Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
1 of 3

The Montreal Canadiens headed to Winnipeg for their only visit to see the Jets last night. The Habs entered with a 13-13-4 record and remain on pace for 82 points after playing 30 games.

Last night's game kicked off a seven game road trip, that is really two separate road trips. The Habs will play the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild later this week before having five days off for Christmas break and then they head down south to face the Carolina Hurricanes after the break.

Here are 24 thoughts on the Habs 31st game of the season.

First Period Thoughts

Jake Allen got the start last night and is looking to extend his seven game losing streak. Okay, he is probably not looking to do that but he could pull it off. His last win was on October 28th against..... the Winnipeg Jets!

Speaking of Habs goaltenders, this is the fourth game in a row Cayden Primeau is not playing. That's unfortunate as he was exceptional against the Buffalo Sabres in his last start. That December 9th win against a division rival saw Primeau stop 46 of 48 shots, but it remains his only action in the month of December.

The top line of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky may not score every night but they are going to get a lot better by facing the tough opposition they are sure to line up against every night. The Canadiens don't really have a second line that poses a threat so when they hit the road, this trio will get the toughest matchups. Watching how they perform on this road trip will be interesting.

Regardless of whether they score two goals per night or none, I think the right thing to do is just keep the three of them together to let them battle through and learn. We are kind of counting on the three of them being top six players on a good team in a couple years so now is a great time to learn how to deal with tough matchups on the road.

I don't know if the Laval Rocket coaching staff are expecting Jayden Struble back anytime soon, but they may never see him again. He showed a calm presence in front of his net clearing away a weirdly bouncing puck that he whiffed on the first time. Instead of panicing or taking a penalty when the puck got behind him he just moved to the backhand and knocked the puck away from the crease to keep it out of a danger area. Shortly after he broke up a play in front of the net when Mark Scheifele was sniffind around trying to redirect a centering pass. He gets the job done defensively and has shown a tremendous skating ability as well. He is sticking around for a long time.

Juraj Slafkovsky showed a lot of confidence and poise on a subtle defensive zone play late in the first period. His line, with Suzuki and Caufield as well as Kaiden Guhle and Justin Barron, were stuck in their own zone for a long period of time and were all clearly gassed. Slafkovsky got the puck deep in his own zone and made a fake to continue going in one direction before he turned 180 degrees on a dime to open up some space for himself. He then stickhandled around another Jets players, using his long reach to keep the puck and then easily got the puck out of his zone.

It was not a highlight reel play at all, but it is the kind of play that players need to be able to make to stay on a top line in the NHL. He didn't panic and ice the puck, and most importantly he didn't turn it over. Instead, he showed 1000 times more confidence than he ever had last season and probably saved a goal against. Now to actually put up a couple of points....

The Canadiens were not able to create a lot of chances in the first period and they played the last eight minutes without a single whistle as both teams just kind of slogged it out. In good news, they didn't allow a ton of chances either which is a good way to start a seven game road trip.