There were a couple of firsts happening in this game. It was Louis Leblanc's first game back after attending the Montreal Canadiens' camp. He showed himself very well at his first NHL camp impressing people with his skill set at such a young age (19). But due to his age and the fact that the Habs have a glut of young talented players it was deemed best for Leblanc's development that he return to the Junior.
He was back on the team's first line with captain Nicholas Chouinard and Philippe Lefebvre. The line is a complete one as they all have offensive talent, work hard, good vision on the ice, and are not afraid to take the body. The line plays on the power play and they all also kill penalties. Leblanc is also an excellent face off taker. As far as lines go they are one of the better ones in all the QMJHL. The team should be happy to have the three reunited.
It was also the first game back for former Junior and the first player the organization ever drafted Guillaume Asselin. After playing two seasons with Montreal Asselin was traded for Leblanc to Chicoutimi this summer. Seemingly making a smooth transition, Asselin was recently named the league Player of the Week and is 4th overall in league scoring with 13 points. Asselin and Rock Régimbald are the two most dangerous offensive players for the visitors.
Montreal has had a good run lately and have moved up in the standings to 8th place overall with 8 points in 6 games. They have also moved up to 2nd place in the West Division just behind Drummondville. Despite their upward mobility, Chicoutimi is still ahead of Montreal in 6th place with 9 points in 6 games.
Not everything is coming up roses for the team, unfortunately the Junior got some bad news this week when then found out that promising import, Hungarian Janos Hari will be lost to the team for approximately four weeks with a sprained ankle suffered in a game versus Val D'Or. The Junior have not had too much luck with imports (Toni Ritter, Dmitri Kostromitin, etc.), but it seems like this year that they have two strong ones with Denis Kindl and Hari. Both have been good so far and here's to hoping that Hari comes back quickly.
The success of the Junior has been a team effort with every player contributing, but if I had to name one player who was more responsible than others I would have to say Xavier Ouellet. The Junior defenceman is 6th overall in the league in scoring with 12 points (1 goal, 11 assists). Ouellet is a good skater, passer and has great hockey sense to boot. Much of the Junior's fortunes this year will depend on this talented defenceman.
Despite all the high level talent involved in this game including Leblanc, Ouellet, Asselin, Régimbald, and Lefebvre the man of the game ended up being Chicoutimi's goaltender Christopher Gibson. Gibson, who hails from Finland, had a stellar goals against average of 1.48 in 4 games. He stamped his mark on the game early and often.
The Junior got a series of silly offensive zone penalties in the 1st period that must have angered their coach. Luckily for them the penalties did not result in any damage meaning goals against. In actuality the Junior did such a good job killing the penalties to Chouinard and Kindl that they created more scoring chances than Chicoutimi did. Their goaltender Gibson saved them several times while on the man advantage.
On one such occasion, Louis-Marc Aubry, who probably played his strongest game of the young season so far, galloped off on a shorthanded 2-on-1 with his linemate Trevor Parkes. Aubry fed a perfect pass to Parkes that sent him in alone on Gibson, but Gibson was able to stick out his right pad out to stymie Parkes' backhanded deke attempt.
This kind of sparkling stop kept coming including a great glove save off Leblanc who was in alone from the blueline on a great pass from Lefebvre. It was the kind of night where you knew the Junior would not be getting any weak goals as Gibson showed early on he was "on".
The frustration for the Junior and more specifically Trevor Parkes continued when he had another chance in alone against Gibson. Gibson outwaited Parkes, who eventually ran out of real estate and was stopped yet again. An equal opportunity frustrater, Gibson also made a strong stop on Charles-Olivier Roussel on a deflection attempt with under a minute left in the period.
Again (it is beginning to sound like a broken record) Montreal was dominating the game and vastly outshooting Chicoutimi while at the same time not allowing them any offensive chances. Gibson was the story so far with at least 4 great saves.
Finally the home side was able to crack this tough nut at 7:32 of the 2nd period. Centreman Aubry was allowed to stand in the crease untouched and got several stabs at the puck before being able to push the puck beyond Gibson.
Once they were ahead, the Junior remained focused and did not allow Chicoutimi any breathing room in the their own end of the ice. Before the Junior were able to salt the game away Chicoutimi had two good chances. The best chances they got during the game both came from the stick of Charles Hudon, who hit the post over and above the shoulder of Jean-Francois Bérubé. Though they both came from sharp angles he was able to fool the Junior netminder, but only found iron. Close but no cigar.
Despite the fact that coach Pascal Vincent was feeding the Saguenéens a steady diet of the Leblanc and Aubry lines in the 3rd period. It was the 4th line that scored the second goal. A giveaway at the Chicoutimi line led to the second goal of the season for Jean-Christophe Aflame (reinserted in the lineup after having been removed from it last game) at 13:25. One minute and ten seconds later Chouinard scored on a power play to put the nail in the Chicoutimi coffin.
Even though Régimbald managed to make it a two goal margin with less than five minutes left in the game, but the game was over. Due to a penalty to Asselin for high sticking Lefebvre and silliness at the end of the game Chicoutimi did not have another sniff at the Junior net. And the winning streak continues.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Marc Muylaert and Christian Gohier
Linesmen: Bruno Forest and Stéfan Capano
-Goals: 2nd Period:
7:37 – Montreal – Louis-Marc Aubry assisted by Trevor Parkes
13:25 – Montreal – Jean-Christopher Laflamme assisted by Matt Provost and Philippe Fontaine
14:35 – Montreal – (pp) Nicolas Chouinard assisted by Louis Leblance and Jérémy Gouchie
15:10 – Chicoutimi – Rock Régimbald assisted by Guillaume Asselin
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: Montreal: 46
-3 Stars: 1) Louis-Marc Aubry – Montreal
2) Nicolas Chouinard – Montreal
3) Christopher Gibson – Chicoutimi
-Final Score: Montreal: 3