Suzuki and Caufield face early adversity to propel Canadiens stagnant offense – .

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Suzuki and Caufield face early adversity to propel Canadiens stagnant offense – .


MONTREAL — Zero — is the number of points the Montreal Canadiens have amassed in the standings in three games.

That’s the number of goals they’ve scored in 11 powerplay, and that’s the number of points Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have accumulated so far this season.

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On Saturday at the Bell Center, these two players were introduced to a crowd of 21,105 and the roof nearly flew off as they each skated toward the center of the rink as part of the home opening ceremony. Suzuki, fresh off a 41-point production in 56 games that propelled him to the top of the Canadiens with 15 points in 22 playoff games and signed him to an eight-year, $ 63 million contract earlier this week, wore an “A” on his jersey and was greeted as one of the team leaders. And the cheers from Caufield – the former 15th overall pick in 2019 who immediately showed his skills as a Hobey Baker winner with the Canadiens in their run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final – were so loud that his parents could have them. -be heard from Wisconsin.

Maybe they were still ringing in his ears as he gathered the puck early in the second period of Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers, as he came in from the left wing, stood on his front foot to uncork his typically deadly shot. and breathed. Or maybe they were shaking Caufield’s mind, along with several other thoughts he would rather not have when he’s just trying to play the game and go with the natural course of things.

The Canadian Dominique Ducharme did not rule out the idea.

“It’s something he doesn’t usually do, and I think it’s mental. It’s too much to think about it when you have such a chance, ”he said of Caufield’s scent. “Some guys say it’s about tightening the stick, but for other guys it’s about getting the perfect shot because of that feeling. At one point, guys like that, when you go for it you get these pucks (and) you don’t even think about it; it’s just natural, boom it’s okay. Even when you shoot you know he’s going to come in.

“Right now they don’t have that,” Ducharme said in reference to both Caufield and Suzuki, and he was right.

They haven’t had it in the first four periods of the season with Tyler Toffoli. They didn’t have it with Artturi Lehkonen in the final two periods of their 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabers on Thursday. And they certainly didn’t have it with Joel Armia in Saturday’s loss to Rangers.

Suzuki and Caufield were not alone.

Toffoli and Brendan Gallagher – two guys capable of scoring 30 goals apiece, as Ducharme said earlier on Saturday – failed to get any of the 20 shots they combined into the back of the net. Josh Anderson, a former 27-goal scorer, is also stuck on zero. Ditto for Armia and Jake Evans, who had Montreal’s best chances against New York.

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“We scored three goals and (Jonathan) Drouin has two,” said Ducharme. “The other is (of) a defender (Chris Wideman).

“Obviously we know we’re better offensively than that, and we’re going to (prove it) that. “

There is no time like the present, as Drouin pointed out.

“You never want to start the season on this side where you are 0-3,” he said. “I think we played a good first game in Toronto. In Buffalo, we played terribly. Tonight was more of our game, apart from too many penalties. In the second period, we gave them that power-play goal that slowed our game down to five-on-five.

“But it’s a little hard to say it’s three games and move on. We want to get a win and move this column forward a bit more now. “

Much will depend on how Suzuki and Caufield react to this first adversity.

The expectations for both players are huge, but the pressure is not greater than they are put on themselves.

When we asked Caufield at the start of training camp about former USA teammate Trevor Zegras suggesting he would score 40 goals in this rookie season, he did the opposite of curling up.

“I love it,” said the 20-year-old. “I think Trevor is the only one who said so. I don’t know how many people agreed, but I’m on Trevor’s side.

When we asked Suzuki after Saturday’s game why he and Caufield weren’t producing as planned, he pointed inward.

“I think when we do a good forward check, turn the pucks and hit fast, that’s when we’re at our best. And there are times where I felt I could make a game, I missed it, ”Suzuki said. “I missed Cole in the lunge once behind the net. And then last game, there are games I have to play. It just didn’t happen… ”

You know it will be for both players soon enough.

And you know it will come for them if they step away from the big picture a bit and focus on the finer details.

“I’m going to take the time to sit down with these two guys,” said Ducharme. “At the same time, it’s easy to say, ‘Control what you can control.’ Yet when you get that puck and that shot chance, it’s in your mind, it’s that feeling, it’s that part of the confidence.

“But you can remove one from your shin guard and go for it.” If you don’t go you won’t have those kinds of opportunities, so it’s just a matter of simplifying it and coming back to it.

This is the process the entire Canadiens team must go through immediately to stop this slippage.

Cédric Paquette admitted they had passed Saturday’s game at times, Drouin said they had too many chances to play and not enough players to go to the net, and Ducharme said they wanted to take a maximum of three penalties per game and not four in one period as they did in the second.

Nowhere is a return to basics more necessary than on the power play.

“Everyone is frustrated when we don’t score on the power play,” said Suzuki. “It kind of hurts the whole team and takes the momentum away from us. We have to do a better job. I think we managed to break the puck a lot better than we did, looked great, but just couldn’t find a way to put it in the net, and that’s the most important part.

This can be seen as the difference between a 0-3 record and a 2-1 record.

The Canadians have essentially lost two of the three games 2-1 — Kevin Rooney made it 3-1 by scoring in an empty net with 10 seconds left in Saturday’s game — and not capitalizing on their chances is. main reason.

That must change on Tuesday when the San Jose Sharks visit the Bell Center. Everything would be better than zero.

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