CHICAGO – The Canadiens’ kids came into Chicago and took down an All-Star Blackhawks lineup, with a little help from an All-Star of their own.
Despite landing in Chicago just a few hours before puck drop on Wednesday, the Habs made the most of their half dozen hours in the Windy City, leaving town with a big win over a much more experienced squad. In addition to icing a veteran lineup that included three players with over 600 games of NHL experience in Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp, the Hawks also started the game with Jonathan Toews in the faceoff circle and Patrick Kane ready to hop over the bench. The Canadiens, meanwhile, countered with nine players who have 30 or fewer NHL games under their belts, including four who have yet to make their regular season NHL debuts.
“It was fun, just like against Colorado [in Quebec City], when they had all their guns in. It’s always fun to see how you can match up,” shared Nathan Beaulieu, who had a goal and an assist in just under 17 minutes of action. “I thought we showed a lot of heart again tonight coming up with a big win and we had Pricer [Carey Price] back there, so that helps a lot.
“It’s unbelievable the stuff he does back there,” added the 21-year-old blue-liner. “He’s like a blanket. He’s so secure and he calms everything down and he’s such a positive guy. For a defenseman, you can’t ask for anything more than having the best goalie in the world standing behind you.”
Having started the 2013 Playoffs with the reserve squad before being promoted to the big club against the Bruins, Beaulieu arrived at camp this year looking to carve out a permanent home in the Canadiens dressing room. Capping what could have been his final audition of the preseason with a two-point night, which included scoring the game winner off a perfect feed from Drayson Bowman in the third period, Beaulieu hopes his preseason performance to date is enough to earn him a recurring role in the regular season.
“That was my goal coming into this camp. I knew it was an important one for me,” he admitted. “I wanted to get better with each game and with the third one, I thought it was my best one. The biggest thing for me is consistency and progression, so I’m happy with how things have progressed so far.”
Having been drafted in 2009, playing 15 games with the Canadiens since then, Gabriel Dumont chipped in with three hits and finished with a plus-1 differential on Wednesday night, getting the chance to cross an item off his NHL To-Do list at the United Center in the process.
“That’s something you can put on your CV. To win a game in this rink against a team that’s pretty much their regular lineup, with a few exceptions, feels great,” confessed the 23-year-old forward. “It’s definitely a positive and it helps the young guys build experience.”
While the prospects might have been feeling some opening jitters prior to puck drop, they grew more comfortable throughout the game with every highlight-reel stop they saw from their starting goalie.
“You always feel good having him back there. When you know he’s going to stop the first one and then the second – and then the third and the fourth – it’s encouraging,” joked Dumont. “We knew it would just take one shot from us and Carey would make the stops. That’s what happened. He’s one of the best goalies, if not the best, in the world and he proves it night after night.”
Rising to the occasion while facing one of the most potent offenses in the league – while also snuffing out all four ‘Hawks power play opportunities – the Canadiens’ prospects made a positive impression on the few veterans who made the trip with them to Chicago on Wednesday.
“A lot of the young guys who were in the lineup had never played here before, so to experience it with the national anthems and stuff like that, I think it was a big eye-opener for them,” explained Rene Bourque, who opened the scoring for the Habs early on in the third period. “They had a full team in there so we knew we had to be ready to play or we’d get embarrassed. They have a lot of skill over there, but we were really proud of the young guys today. They all played their tails off and we needed that from everybody.
“I think we have a bright future with a lot of these kids,” he concluded. “I think [director of amateur scouting] Trevor Timmins has done a great job of drafting guys and evaluating talent because we have a lot of great prospects knocking at the door here.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
The Numbers Game - October 1st, 2014
Tough calls coming
Canadiens' young guns in action at the Bell Centre