At the 2016 NHL entry draft Canadiens scouting director Trevor Timmins traded away his 2017 seventh round pick to the Winnipeg Jets so he could draft a 6’5” Swedish defenseman named Arvid Henrikson. As a result the Canadiens had no pick when seventh and final round of the 2018 draft came around and Timmins still had a player he was eager to draft on his list. At his urging, Marc Bergevin traded the Canadiens 2018 seventh rounder for number 199 in 2017. The player Timmins was so eager to take a long-shot chance on was goaltender Cayden Primean who was playing in the junior USHL.
What makes the story more interesting and somewhat ironic; the deal to get that draft pick was with the Philadelphia Flyers who, after the 1985 death of Pelle Lindbergh had spent three fruitless decades searching for his replacement. Additionally,Primeau’s father Keith played for the Flyers through the final six years of his career, four of them as team captain and son Cayden was born in the Philadelphia area.
Wednesday night, twenty-nine months after that fateful swap of draft choices, Primeau was the most important part of the Canadiens 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre.
Life does take a funny turn at times.
With his father watching Primeau stopped 35 of 37 shots and was unquestionably the game’s first star. Unlike the shaky beginnings of his debut against Colorado last week, Primeau was in control of his game from start to finish. He couldn’t be faulted on either of the goals scored on him. He was on-the-puck and his positioning was impeccable throughout the night.
It was on the second Ottawa goal where we saw Primeau’s athleticism on full display. He came within a centimetre of diving across to make miraculous save Connor Brown’s shot. It was a reminder of a save he made on the Devils Blake Coleman back in training camp. That kind of effort takes a special talent as any Carey Price fan will attest.
In each of their three consecutive Canadiens wins there has been a bend-but-don’t-break aspect to the their This was another of those second games in 24 hours and they had early trouble finding their legs. Seven minutes into the game shots on goal favoured the Senators 8-1 although i must be said that, while ceding territory, the Canadiens were forcing the Senators into shooting from the perimeter which made things easier for Primeau. Midway through the period the Canadiens got it together. Nick Cousins deflected Max Domi’s pass to make it 1-0 in the 13th minute and by period’s end the Canadiens had collected five high-danger scoring chances to none for Ottawa.
GROWING INTO THE ROLE
Ben Chiarot didn’t lead the Canadiens in minutes-played but for the sixth consecutive game he was the Canadiens best blueliner. A sign of how his role is expanding, Claude Julien had him on the ice in the overtime’s second wave just in time for him to take Max Domi’s pass for the game-winning goal.
In regulation time Chiarot had six shots on goal and two high danger scoring chances. Of his 25:50 of ice time, 5:45 was spent killing penalties.
Ryan Poehling was up with the Canadiens last month and frankly didn’t look anywhere close to being an NHL calibre forward. Poehling was called up for his second chance Wednesday morning to replace the injured Matthew Peca. Playing left wing on the fourth line with Nate Thompson and Riley Barber, Poehling was very much improved. He created two excellent scoring chances for himself and set up Brendan Gallagher for another. Clearly his best game since the hat trick debut at the end of last season.
Despite picking up two points, I can see little or no improvement in Max Domi’s overall game. A bad penalty, a mistake that forced Joel Armia to take a penalty, multiple giveaways and bad decisions erased his contributions which included a great shot pass for Nick Cousin’s power play goal and the setup on the Chiarot overtime winner. His personal frustration at the deterioration of his game is reflected in his body language on the Canadiens bench. With all of the injuries, job one for the Canadiens coaching staff is finding a way for Domi to come out of his depression.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….After losing eight straight, the Canadiens have now won four of their last five games and are now back in a playoff spot: third in the Atlantic Division in a points tie with second place Buffalo.
….Another chapter in the nightly Brendan Gallagher chronicle. In the opening seconds of the third period Gallagher outraced the defense deep in the Ottawa end, won a battle to get the puck to Phillip Danault and then hustled to the front of the net in time to screen on Tomas Tatar’s goal.
….Gallagher’s goal scoring streak ended at four games but he and Danault have points in five consecutive games. Over that stretch Gallagher has 4 goals and seven points. Danault with 1 goal, 5 assists.
….This was Danault’s 300th career NHL game.
….It’s not often you will see Shea Weber lose it but after he was aggressively pushed into Primeau by Brady Tkaczuk it was a bridge to far. Weber went after him hard, a warning that there is a price to be paid for goal crease transgression even in today’s NHL.
….We saw far too much of the game officials in this game especially in the second period when eight penalties were called. It left special teams on the ice for almost ten minutes, totally disrupting the game’s flow and momentum.
….Primeau was one of three 20 year old players out of the 2017 draft in the Canadiens lineup. Nick Suzuki was drafted 13th by Vegas and Poehling 25th by the Canadiens. With Cale Fleury and defenseman Otto Leskinen there were five rookies in the lineup.
….In Canadiens goaltending history only Len Broderick, Patrick Roy, Jose Theodore and Carey Price recorded their first NHL victory at a younger age than Primeau.
….The Senators outshot the Canadiens 37-29 and carried 59.3% of the offense but the Canadiens held an 8-3 advantage in five-on-five high danger scoring chances.
The Canadiens will host the lowly Detroit Red Wings Saturday before heading out on the pre-Christmas segment of their seven game road trip which will take them to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg next week