The Canadian | The first trio won’t be able to do everything alone

After the spectacular performance delivered by Nick Suzuki’s unit on Tuesday, it was pointed out in broad strokes, particularly in these pages, that the Canadian perhaps finally had a real NHL first line on hand. Which hadn’t happened for a good fifteen years.

There is obviously, at the Habs, reason to rejoice. But we will add, without malice: it’s lucky that this trio is there. Because after Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky, the offensive production of the attackers is… how should I say… timid?

Since returning from its bye week, the Habs, more than ever, are a one-line team. In four games, Suzuki and Slafkovsky have scored 71% of their team’s goals (10 of 14). Stretching the sample to 10 games, Suzuki (7), Slafkovsky (6) and Caufield (4) account for 17 of the 27 goals scored by attackers, or 63%. Since Sean Monahan had scored two goals in the interval, that doesn’t leave much for the others.

Because we might as well face reality coldly: the three gifted players will not obtain two or three points every evening.

“It is certain that all trios must do their job, agreed Brandon Gignac, Wednesday morning, after the team’s training. The first line is incredible right now. They are the leaders of the team, so you have to do everything you can to help them. »

The Quebecer, in fact, scored his first goal in the NHL on Tuesday. Jake Evans, for his part, ended a drought of 24 games without scoring. These successes are good news, but more is needed. Three wingers, in particular, seek to break particularly hollow sequences.

  • Josh Anderson: 1 goal in 15 games
  • Tanner Pearson: 1 goal in 29 games
  • Jesse Ylönen: No goals in his last 33 games

Brendan Gallagher, who will return to the game on Thursday after serving a five-game suspension, had regained some momentum before being punished by the league (3 goals in 10 games). One of his objectives, for the last third of the season, is precisely “to contribute to the success of the team as much as possible”.

Since Anderson and Suzuki were taken off practice Wednesday to undergo treatment, it’s not yet clear what the lineup will look like with the addition of Gallagher. However, we know that Samuel Montembeault will be the starting goalie against the Rangers. But it’s still not him who will score goals.

In the center


Alex Newhook

To structure the offensive support, we will obviously turn to the center players behind Nick Suzuki.

The team having lost a lot of feathers in this position since the start of the season, the ball is in the court of Gignac, Evans and Alex Newhook.

The latter had been mainly used as a winger before being seriously injured at the end of November. His brief stint at center, at the start of the season, had not been prolific.

Earlier this week, Martin St-Louis explained that he preferred to keep Newhook on the wing last fall because of “the circumstances and the training we had at that time.” “If I had put him in the center, he would not have been in the top 6 », Specified the CH head coach. Under the circumstances of February, Newhook is at center for good.

The Newfoundlander says he is becoming more and more comfortable in this position. He hopes to be able to use the remaining 30 games to “prove (that he) can play center at this level.”

St-Louis expects him to be “reliable” and “consistent” defensively. Besides, with the exception of faceoffs, which have never been Newhook’s cup of tea, the center position is quite similar to that of the other forwards, according to St-Louis. “From the way in which the game today, you will start in the center, but that does not mean that you will be the first player to return to our zone and that you will always play downfield, he added. Whether you’re the first guy back or the fifth, it doesn’t matter what your job, you need to be alert. »

Gignac confirms that this is the signal he has been given since he joined the team 10 days ago: “We are all intelligent players at this level: we are capable of reading the game and read each other. »


Jake Evans

Jake Evans finds himself in a special situation. With the departure of Sean Monahan, he sees his responsibilities increased in just about every department.

Above all, he finds himself full-time at the center of what is currently the second trio. “I don’t see it as pressure, but as an opportunity,” he said Wednesday. I know I have to raise my game, contribute differently. »

Defensively, Evans has always been a safe bet, and he still is. His offensive production, however, remains marginal despite his presence in the top 6. The trios he has been piloting for several weeks rarely play decisive roles.

Overall, the 27-year-old striker says he is pleased to have shown more “consistency” than in past years, but he feels he still has “a lot to prove”. In particular, he wants to show management that he can “play for these minutes again over the coming years”.

“I want to finish the season strong and prove that I have more to give,” he added.

We will see if this comes to fruition. All forms of assistance, however, will be welcome.


Leave a Comment