Coming off a season in which they made the Division Finals and being one of the last four teams remaining there has been plenty of pressure heaped upon the Montreal Canadiens. A few players are gone from that team and a few new ones have been brought on board. This preseason has been a time of discovering who is going to step up and claim those precious few spots available on the team.
With only four preseason games left this was going to be one of the last “auditions” for the young players trying to stick with the Habs. Playing one of the league’s best in the Chicago Blackhawks and, even more daunting, going into the United Center was going to be a tall order for this largely inexperienced Montreal side. There were very few veterans in the line-up for the Habs while the Blackhawks dressed a veteran side. I’m sure not many expected much out of this game then the young side earned Montreal its fourth win in five preseason games.
The veterans dressed for Montreal included Carey Price, Davis Drewiske, Lars Eller, Rene Bourque, Dale Weise, Alexei Emelin, and Brandon Prust. The rest were young players trying to make an impression including defensemen Nathan Beaulieu, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi and forwards Sven Andrighetto, Jacob De la Rose, Gabriel Dumont, Jiri Sekac, Christian Thomas, Jake Dowell, and Drayson Bowman.
As was expected over the first 40 minutes of the game Chicago dominated. They outshot Montreal 22-9 and outchanced them over 2-1. If not for the brilliance of Price on several saves Chicago would have been ahead by several goals at the end of the 2nd period. Because of Price the score was knotted 0-0.
In between the 2nd and 3rd periods Montreal head coach Michel Therrien, as he is known to do, tinkered a little with his lines in an effort to get more offense out of his trios. It worked right off the bat. Sekac was moved from the Bourque-Eller line onto the Andrighetto-De la Rose line. Less than one minute into the 3rd period the offensively gifted Andrighetto caused a turn over deep in the Blackhawks’ end. He then deked out Kyle Cumiske and set up De la Rose just outside the crease. Showing his quick movement Antti Raanta moved from his right post to left and was able to get his right pad on De la Rose’s shot. Raanta, who is slated to be Corey Crawford’s back-up once again this season, is not a big man (6’0”, 192 lbs.), but is technically sound.
Some good work deep in the Chicago end led to the game’s opening goal. Winger Rene Bourque was set up for a chance and rang his shot off the far post. Christian Thomas did not let up and dug the puck out of the corner and in a skilled play got the pass from behind the net to Bourque in front. This time he did not miss and at 4:03 of the 3rd period the first goal was scored. 1-0 Montreal.
The buzz from the goal had barely subsided when Montreal scored again. This time it was defenseman Nathan Beaulieu who joined a 4-on-2 break into the Chicago end. He was able to get his stick on a perfectly weighted and placed saucer pass by Drayson Bowman. Beaulieu deflected the shot passed a helpless Raanta. 2-0 Montreal.
After Alexei Emelin and then Kris Versteeg were assessed minor penalties within 16 seconds of each other in the 13th minute of the 3rd the two teams played a little 4-on-4. With some open space Chicago was able to pull within one goal of Montreal. Greg Pateryn coughed up the puck at the Chicago blue line. Brandon Saad found a streaking Andrew Shaw. Shaw was away on a partial breakaway with Pateryn on his back. Shaw kept his cool and beat Price high on his glove side at the 14:07 mark of the 3rd. 2-1 Montreal.
Naanta kept his team within a goal during an abbreviated Montreal power play. Jiri Sekac launched a slap shot at the Chicago goal only to have Raanta grab it out of the air with his glove. He then came to the Blackhawks’ bench with 1:20 remaining for the extra attacker. Not much later Michael Bournival pounced on a loose puck in between the two benches and sent a shot down towards the empty Chicago goal. He scored the goal that cemented the victory with 59 seconds left. 3-1 Montreal.
The big star of the game was Habs’ goalie, Carey Price. When he is on he makes things seem simple. Price looks ready to start the season and seems like he is going to pick up where he left off last year. If Montreal has a chance to replicate or do better than what they did last season it will be because of the play of Price; he is that important to the team.
The three preseason games remaining included a home and away series against the Ottawa Senators and finishes up with a game against the Washington Capitals. Montreal’s next game is Friday night in Ottawa against the Senators.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Kevin Pollock and Jean Hebert
Linesmen – Brian Mach and Trent Knorr
-Goals: 3rd Period:
4:03: Montreal – Rene Bourque assisted by Christian Thomas and Nathan Beaulieu
5:57: Montreal – Nathan Beaulieu assisted by Drayson Bowman and Jake Dowell
14:07: Chicago – Andrew Shaw assisted by Brandon Saad
19:01: Montreal – (en) Michael Bournival unassisted
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 19
Chicago – 32
-3 Stars: 1) Carey Price – Montreal
2) Nathan Beaulieu – Montreal
3) Andrew Shaw – Chicago
-Final Score: Montreal – 3
Chicago – 1