Most Impressive Canadiens Games of 2022-23 so Far

Maybe it was the fact the Edmonton Oilers underestimated the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe it was a case of the Oilers, with points in their previous 11 games heading in, just having their bubble finally burst. Whatever it was, the Habs ended up with a decisive 6-2 victory on Feb. 12, as they broke Connor McDavid’s 15-game point streak in what was arguably their most impressive game of the season.

Keep in mind it was the Canadiens’ second game in two days, also having beaten the New York Islanders in a thrilling overtime win the previous afternoon on Super Bowl weekend. However, due to a variety of factors, namely the Oilers being at the top of their game (at least over the last few weeks) and the margin of victory, the latter win must get the edge… and then some.

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It’s nevertheless an indication of how the Canadiens’ season has gone so far. In fact, despite relatively low expectations to start the season (and a modest 22-27-4 record), they’ve made a habit of putting together impressive efforts since 2022-23 began. Here is the best of the rest of the bunch, in reverse chronological order:

Ottawa Senators (5-4 Loss on Jan. 31)

Even in defeat, the Canadiens have demonstrated a never-say-die attitude (at least until the final buzzer, at which point they’d do well to accept whatever the scoreboard says). Granted, the Ottawa Senators have only a few more points than the Canadiens in the standings, but the Habs still deserved a better fate, losing 5-4 to them on Jan. 31.

In the game, the Canadiens twice overcame two-goal deficits to finally tie it 3-3 in the third period. The Canadiens then fell behind again, only for Rafael Harvey-Pinard to notch his second of the game to knot things up at four goals apiece with just over five minutes left to play.

Raphael Harvey-Pinard Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens forward Rafael Harvey-Pinard – (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Senators forward Brady Tkachuk scored the game-winning goal with just over a minute left on a puck that seemed to deflect in off diving defenseman David Savard for a relatively heartbreaking defeat… even if the loss did technically meet all the requirements of a perfect game in the context of the rebuild.

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Keep in mind the loss represented the second half of a home-and-home series with the Senators. The Canadiens lost 5-0 a few days prior. So, for the Canadiens to continually come back as they did, making a game of it in the process, represented a huge moral victory, even in defeat.

Boston Bruins (4-2 Loss on Jan. 24)

The same can be said for the Canadiens’ loss to the league-leading Boston Bruins a week earlier. Against the Presidents’ Trophy favorites, the Canadiens more than held their own, as Kirby Dach both opened the scoring and tied it 2-2 midway through the third period.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Patrice Bergeron scored the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal soon thereafter. David Pastrnak added an empty-net goal to make the game seem less close than it actually was.

Kirby Dach Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens forward Kirby Dach – (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Dach made this game especially rewarding in spite of the loss. He continued to be a difference-maker for the Canadiens, which is a good sign to say the least, considering he’s been producing at center, the position he was acquired to play. The two goals were his sixth and seventh points in a seven-game stretch at the time. He’s only added to that total since. Overall, he’s scored 11 points (six goals) in the last 12 games, which only bodes well for the team’s future.

Winnipeg Jets (4-1 Win on Jan. 17)

Dach was also a star against the then-Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets, when the Canadiens beat them 4-1 on Jan. 17. Dach tallied two primary assists for third-star honors, while Evgeny Dadonov of all players stood out above everyone else on the ice with two goals.

Evgenii Dadonov Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens forward Evgeny Dadonov – (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

A rarity on the season, the Canadiens outshot the opposition in this one 28-26, scoring four unanswered goals after Kyle Connor opened things up in the second period. Goalie Samuel Montembeault did the rest, making 25 saves in all, in a performance has become kind of the norm for him.

Related: Canadiens Goalie Montembeault May Just Be Late-Bloomer

True, Montembeault may not have been the difference in this game in particular. However, he’s undeniably stolen a few games. The fact of the matter is, after a disastrous season statistically speaking for him in 2021-22, more often than not Montembeault has been incredibly solid, as the Habs look to find out what exactly they have in their “backup” goalie.

Pittsburgh Penguins (5-4 Overtime Win on Nov. 12)

In fairness, Jake Allen hasn’t been a complete slouch. Granted, his stat line leaves something to be desired (11-17-2, 3.53 goals-against average and .892 save percentage), but it hasn’t all been Montembeault. In fact, perhaps representative of how he’s the team’s starter for all intents and purposes, Allen was the goalie of record in four of the six games in this list (including the Oilers victory).

That also includes the Canadiens’ 5-4 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 12, which is perhaps representative in turn of why Allen’s stats look the way they do. Nevertheless, the Canadiens as a whole came to play in this one, outshooting the favored Penguins 42-24, as they pulled out the hard-fought victory after tying the game three separate times in the third period to force overtime.

Jake Allen Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen – (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Mike Hoffman scored the winner in overtime, the Habs’ second overtime victory over the Penguins on the season up to that point already. They won 3-2 back on Oct. 17 in another come-from-behind win. However, this last one was more special, based on how it was later in the season and the Canadiens shouldn’t have been taking anyone by surprise anymore, least of all the Pens.

Toronto Maple Leafs (4-3 Win on Oct. 12)

Even so, sometimes a good surprise makes all the difference. Take for instance the Canadiens’ season-opening 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 12. The Maple Leafs were admittedly a bit of a question mark, because of their goaltending shake-up (acquiring Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov last offseason after letting Jack Campbell hit free agency), but pretty much everyone had an idea of what the Habs were.

Finishing last in the league last season, the Canadiens were logically looking to keep the rebuild going this season. In spite of the fact Montembeault and Allen have been solid, you don’t start a season with them as your goaltending tandem expecting great things. So, those expectations were low against the Leafs, who, for the record, have proven themselves to be regular-season front-runners once again.

In Game 1 on this specific regular season, the Maple Leafs opened the scoring in the first. Canadiens forward Cole Caufield tied it 1-1 and eventually 2-2 in the second, setting the stage for a dramatic third-period finish. The Habs didn’t disappoint. Sean Monahan scored what appeared to be the eventual game-winning goal with 2:30 left, but William Nylander replied 40 seconds later.

Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens forward Cole Caufield – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The safe play on the part of both sides would have been to wait for overtime to secure a point. Maybe that was the plan in principle, but in practice Canadiens forward Josh Anderson got hold of a loose puck in the slot with 20 seconds left and placed a perfect shot past Murray for the 4-3 win, setting the tone for the Habs’ early-season success that left at least a few fans thinking they were a playoff team, with a relatively impressive 8-6-1 record at one point in November.

Ultimately, that obviously hasn’t come to fruition. However, the way the team shone on the scoresheet early on did give all fans, even those who were a bit more realistic regarding how the Canadiens would fare down the stretch, a much-needed glimpse into this team’s bright future, even if everyone’s going to have wait a while longer to see it sustained over the course of an entire season. Nevertheless, recent wins like the one against the Oilers, hints that maybe the future isn’t so far off.