MONTREAL — There have been many sequences on this 4-0 Montreal Canadiens win over the Buffalo Sabres that popped, however one particularly that sizzled and symbolized the big impression Martin St. Louis has had in simply two weeks as head coach of the workforce.
It didn’t contain Sam Montembeault, who recorded the primary shutout of his NHL profession. It had nothing to do with Nick Suzuki, who performed arguably probably the most dominant sport of his profession — scoring two objectives, notching an help, directing seven photographs on web, profitable 11 of 17 faceoffs and making good move after good move.
Jeff Petry, who adopted up his three finest video games of the season with a fair higher one, wasn’t actually part of this sequence both. Nor was Cole Caufield, who prolonged his level streak to 4 video games with an help within the first interval and scored his sixth objective in seven video games below St. Louis within the third.
And Mike Hoffman, who performed brilliantly and did all the things however rating on this one, was about 30 ft away from it when Laurent Dauphin, skating via the impartial zone and right into a lure of 4 Sabres, did a spin-o-rama after which managed to stickhandle via a defender to increase the play lengthy sufficient for Hoffman and the opposite Canadiens on the ice to catch up.
This was Dauphin, the 2013 second-round decide of the Arizona Coyotes who had toiled principally within the minors up till this season. Dauphin, the participant who St. Louis scratched for his first three video games behind Montreal’s bench.
However on this sequence, he was Dauphin tapping into an inner-Alex Kovalev nobody knew he had. On this one — and a number of other others in a sport that noticed the 2 strains he performed on dominate the even-strength shot makes an attempt 15-5 — he used his instincts and had the boldness to make a play most wouldn’t have believed he was able to making.
How was it symbolic of St. Louis’ impression? Nicely, if the thirteenth ahead made a play like that, think about what the opposite 12 — and all of the defencemen — have been doing for the reason that 46-year-old traded in his tracksuit for an Armani.
This can be a coach who got here off a bantam bench and talked about how his adjustment to stepping behind an NHL one wouldn’t be as large as everybody was making it out to be. “Hockey is hockey,” he stated at his introductory press convention.
The Canadiens weren’t taking part in it via their first 45 video games below Dominique Ducharme, however they’re taking part in it now.
St. Louis stated he wouldn’t field them in with a system. He stated he believed extra in ideas quite than programs. He requested the Canadiens to forecheck exhausting, backcheck tougher, keep on prime of their males, make reads, play on intuition, play with confidence, make one of the best play and never only a good play, play hockey, and simply have enjoyable.
It’s easy stuff.
However there’s magnificence in simplicity.
And I don’t know if what the Canadiens have been doing via St. Louis’ time as coach could be thought of lovely, nevertheless it certain is quite a bit prettier than what they had been doing earlier than.
“We shut the brains off a bit bit,” stated Brett Kulak, who performed a near-flawless 26 shifts towards the Sabres. “We’re not interested by an excessive amount of to do, and everybody’s form of expressing their expertise and their strengths form of in several methods and totally different conditions on the ice. It’s simply clicking.
“Issues are working very well proper now and I feel we’re taking part in with extra pace than we’ve all 12 months. Everybody simply appears form of like a greater participant proper now collectively and it’s been an enormous snowball impact over the previous few days or so.”
From Suzuki to Caufield — who mixed for 17 factors with Josh Anderson over the past three and a half video games earlier than Anderson left this one within the second interval after taking Casey Mittelstadt’s wrist shot within the cheekbone — to Kulak and Dauphin. The Canadiens are unshackled.
“They’re nice gamers, they’re within the NHL and, for me, it’s about assembly me midway with the non-negotiable stuff — the sport administration, the puck administration,” St. Louis stated. “In the event that they examine the containers there, I would like them to play and belief their instincts. That’s why they’re within the NHL.”
That strategy has impressed the boldness that’s led to this primary four-game profitable streak (within the common season) for the Canadiens since January of 2019. It is a confidence that Kulak stated was brewing even via the primary three losses below St. Louis.
It remained intact after Paul Byron left with an upper-body damage early within the first interval of Wednesday’s sport. It remained unchanged even when Anderson went down late within the second.
It stems partly from a dedication and engagement that’s been there for a fortnight. One which’s risen with every passing day.
“I’ve numerous buy-in from the gamers,” stated St. Louis. “There’s numerous winners on this workforce — the blokes who maintain the workforce quite a bit. You win numerous video games with guys like that. It’s 4-0 and we’re blocking photographs with one minute left. It’s enjoyable to see how rapidly the tradition has progressed.”
However St. Louis’ position in that development is very large. It should not be understated.
The Canadiens misplaced too many video games with the identical guys and knocked themselves out of playoff rivalry properly earlier than he arrived. They didn’t appear to be the workforce that went to the Stanley Cup Remaining final summer season, they usually actually didn’t appear to be winners.
Even with that modified, nobody is below the phantasm they’re going to rattle off win after win over the ultimate 30 video games.
However the coach who had zero skilled expertise prior has already damaged via to each participant on the roster, and he’s making the workforce appear to be one that may at the least compete in all of them.