Thursday, September 22, 2011

Canadiens - Sabres Game Notes: Buffalo 3 - Montreal 1

by Kamal Panesar

Last night the Montreal Canadiens played their second exhibition game of the 2011-2012 NHL pre-season, against the Buffalo Sabres. While their effort was better than in their 6-3 loss to the Stars on Tuesday, the result—which at this time of the year doesn't mean much—was the same, as they dropped the decision.

We got a look at a whole different lineup from Tuesday, however, with notable returns to action by Josh Gorges and Max Pacioretty. We also got our first look at top prospect, Nathan Beaulieu, in action against a Sabres squad that was largely filled with veteran players.

What follows are some of the highlights.

Game Notes

Josh Gorges - His knee looked great as he was skating well all night and didn't seem any worse for wear. Just to make sure it was put to the test, however, Gorges got knocked around on a number of different occasions by Sabres' players. No hit was more notable then when he was crunched by Tyler Myers in the second with no ill effects.

It's good to see Gorges back in the lineup for Montreal!

Now that's a good combo: With Scott Gomez on the sidelines with a lower body injury, David Desharnais got the call to pivot the second line. And he did not disappoint.

His chemistry with Max Pacioretty was evident as the two, flanked by captain Brian Gionta, were a threat every time they were on the ice.

It will be interesting to see how long Gomez is out but, so far, DD looks like a more than adequate replacement.

Nathan Beaulieu - Wow, this kid is good! What a performance by the 19-year-old in his first game against real NHL competition. This kid looked like a mini-P.K. Subban.

Excellent skating, tremendous mobility, a nose for the net, a fierce shot from the point and a Bobby Orr-like ability to carry the rush.

I've got to say that it was a treat watching Beaulieu and Subban working the point on the power play, with the two dancing circles around the Buffalo defenders.

He still has a long way to go but, he seems to have all the tool to become a real star in this league.

Subban himself has some choice words to say about the youngster:

The future of the Habs backend is certainly bright!

Subban - Speaking of the PP, Subban looked superb last night. He picked up where he left off last season and, brimming with confidence, played a solid game at both ends of the ice.

P.K. got the Habs on the board on a sweet pass from Beaulieu at the line, on the PP. Subban made a move on the first defender, walked in and fired a low hard wrister past the Sabres' netminder

This looks like a guy who isn't going to be having any part of a sophomore slump.

Max Pacioretty - He looked great. Big, fast, hitting, going to the net. Again, playing with DD and Gionta, Pacioretty was a threat all game. He didn't capitalize on any of his numerous chances but that will come in time. He looked like his game timing was off a little, which is to be expected this early in the season.

I feel he's in for a true breakout season.

Peter Budaj - He's better than Alex Auld, plain and simple. No offense to Auld, but Budaj is a goalie who has been on the cusp of being a starter for a long time. As such, he brings a better set of skills to the ice and will be a player the Habs can lean on more this season, allowing Price to rest a little in the process.

Alexander Avtsin - I'm sorry, who? This guy was a ghost last night and continues to have difficulty living up to his once top billing. Talking to Rick Springhetti, amateur scout for McKeen's Magazine, he feels that Avtsin just doesn't have the mindset to ever make it in the NHL.

That remains to be seen but, for now, he isn't doing much to help his cause.

Bizarre incident: Hunter Bishop hit a Buffalo player, bounced off of him and fell to the ice in considerable pain. After a few moments he was helped off the ice but didn't return for the rest of the game.

Up next: The Habs have the day off before getting back at in on Friday in Ottawa against the Senators.

Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of and Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at

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(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)


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