MONTREAL – Like their teammates, young defensemen Justin Barron, Corey Schueneman and Jordan Harris got off to a great start against the Senators on Tuesday night.
With the “Gallager effect” which greeted his return to the game by scoring the first goal of the game, the Canadian had full control of the game. This control, the Habs lost it after Schueneman had made a very nasty first pass. From the corner of the rink, when Jake Allen had just given him the puck, Schueneman served the puck to Auston Watson who took advantage of such a nice gift to level the chances.
Schueneman knew more than anyone that he had screwed up.
He may have badly anticipated the turn of Rem Pitlick who seemed to be his only target and who got out of the game by making a sharp turn to go back on the attack. Cole Caufield was free further near the boards, but Schueneman didn’t seem to see him.
He made a mistake. No question here of nailing the young defender to the pillory. On the contrary. Because this error represented in my eyes the perfect opportunity to challenge the young defender.
How was he going to react after this costly mistake? Was it going to fade away? Was he going to start getting rid of the puck as soon as possible to avoid another blunder? Was he going to react as many young people in the same situation would have reacted?
Schueneman continued to play. To play well. He continued to initiate good raises. To skate well. To support the attack when the situations allowed him to do so. He fired a few good shots, including one that hit the outside of the post. He recovered well. Very well even.
“He quickly put that behind him, he moved on and worked,” veteran David Savard noted in his post-game comments.
Comments still as complimentary to Schueneman, Barron and Harris who show a lot of speed, a lot of mobility, a lot of offensive skills suggesting better days in terms of offensive raises orchestrated by the defenders of the Canadian. Comments that Savard is likely to repeat often over the next few seasons when he could assume a role of godfather to his young teammates.
No question of getting carried away, but…
No question here to get carried away. Even less question of associating the three young people with the “Big Three” on which the Canadian was firmly anchored at the time when Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard were enthroned among the best defenders in the hockey world in full force.
The mere fact of already talking about another “Big Three” would be absurd. Because there will be one and only one real “Big Three” in the history of the Canadiens and the NHL.
But in the light of the first games they played, it is allowed to move forward without the slightest restraint that the “Young Three” of the Canadian impresses.
The way Schueneman recovered after his blunder is a good example.
Then comes the high quality of the game offered by Justin Barron. And I’m not talking here about its purpose. His first in the NHL. A very nice goal scored with a very good and solid shot fired while the young defender did not hesitate to make an incursion into the enemy zone.
I’m talking about the ease he displays in all phases of the game: from his way of skating to his way of carrying the puck. Surprising confidence he also displays. Even more surprising calm.
A game comes to mind.
During a massive attack by the Canadian – the young fullback spent 1:47 on the ice on the power play – Barron was put in mud up to his neck by Joel Armia. There were only a few seconds left for the penalty. Barron was at the enemy blue line, a few strides from the exit of the penalty box. Instead of keeping the puck in the bottom of the territory, Armia, who is nevertheless a veteran who should have notions in defense, stupidly put the puck back on the point. Barron then had to deal with a bouncing puck arriving in front of him and a Sens player determined to hide his penalty behind him.
Barron got out of the mess without a hitch.
I’ve seen him emerge victorious from several one-on-one fights in circumstances that are not always obvious. He stood up to Drake Batherson at the enemy blue line to deprive the “Sens” of a raise which could have been dangerous, because only Jake Allen remained behind Harris on the sequence.
He not only stood up to, but knocked down, Brady Tkachuk to Jake Allen’s left as the Senators tried to get into the Canadiens’ zone.
He framed the two shots he fired towards the enemy net.
He played good hockey.
Boost trust, not undermine it
After the match, I asked Martin St-Louis what he focused on in his analysis of the work of his young defenders: goals? The passes? The kick? The checks?
“Playing the game,” St. Louis replied.
“I place less importance on what they do with the puck than on all the information they take before being in possession of the puck. Not just for youngsters, but for all players,” the manager added.
As for the error committed by Schueneman, St-Louis did not hold it against him. “The intentions were good. It’s not the kind of game that will cause me to keep a youngster on the bench and undermine his confidence. Especially with the good minutes he’s given us since he’s been here and the good minutes he’s given again tonight. Even if the sample is small, I am very satisfied with what our young defenders are giving us. »
To use the expression of the coach, it is clear that the members of the “Young Three” can read. This is a very good start.
That said, more than making decisions aimed at boosting the confidence of his young defenders instead of undermining it, Martin St-Louis is counting on the experience of Luke Richardsson to lead the Schueneman, Barron and Harris well – we can add Romanov to the list – to teach them to read faster.
“Luke is a calm, confident and meticulous coach. His approach gives young people confidence on the ice. It allows young people to progress by accepting to be directed and to be corrected when necessary. His way of doing things ensures that young people do not feel handcuffed or suffocated when they are asked to correct certain things. It helps their development a lot. »
True, the sample is still too small to draw any major conclusions. But the first games played by Justin Barron, Corey Schueneman and Jordan Harris allow us to look to the future with a dose of enthusiasm that has long been lacking on the Canadiens’ blue line.