TORONTO – Earlier this season, Phillip Danault called Nick Suzuki a little magician. Grand conjurer would now be more appropriate.
On the intelligence of the rookie, his ability to adapt depends, in part, on the rest of the season of the Canadian, surprise winner of the first duel of his qualifying series which opposes him to the Penguins.
Why? Simply because, as Claude Julien honestly admitted on Saturday noon, the CH “ has no choice To leave it to him. To him and to other young people in the organization like Jesperi Kotkaniemi, also praised by his boss. Thus is built this club which relied, to start the playoffs, on three players who spent a good part of the season in the American League. The CH lacks depth, we don’t teach anyone anything.
As the team’s second and third crosses, Suzuki and Kotkaniemi, at 20, hold critical positions that force them to face the crème de la crème in their field from time to time, whether portrayed by Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
Suzuki’s start to the match was a pure disaster. Opposed to Malkin, the young pivot saw double and struggled to keep up with the pace imposed by the star. The Russian got three chances to score in his first two appearances on the ice, the Penguins carved out the lion’s share and left only crumbs at the CH, dumbfounded.
After seven minutes of play, Pittsburgh had shot 10 times on Carey Price, also extremely solid in this meeting, and the CH claimed a shot. Suzuki looked ready to be eaten alive in this disadvantageous showdown.
«As a trio, we had a bad start. The coaches were talking to us. They told us to stay ready. We had to keep workingSuzuki said.
Then, Julien managed to get his rookie out of Malkin’s clutches, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan did not react to the strategy and everything fell into place for the number 14 of the Canadian.
After a very short ordeal, Suzuki gave the impression of having assimilated the lessons and offered one of the most convincing performances of his young career.
Obviously, this magnificent goal in a two-on-one descent after stealing the disc from Brian Dumoulin in the defensive zone made the eyes widen, but it was rather the quality of his defensive play that caught the attention.
Julien made him his most used striker (23:10 including 5:58 on the penalty kill), especially because of the three minor penalties from Phillip Danault, nevertheless, Suzuki forced the hand of his coach. He also elapsed the entire 92 seconds 5 to 3, along with Shea Weber and Jeff Petry.
«I was confident, just answered Suzuki. I had two good defenders with me. We had talked a lot about the Penguins’ power play. I was happy to have the confidence of my coaches.»
He quickly understands. These are the key words. In his second game in the National League, in Toronto in October 2019, Suzuki had stupidly had the puck pulled behind his net which led to a goal for the Maple Leafs. Simply a rookie’s mistake. Never have we seen him again so carefree deep in his territory. Teaching duly noted.
This short series against the Pittsburgh Penguins allows the Canadian to learn a little more about the little gems they have in their hands.
Many observers sing the praises of the group of hopes of the CH supposed to promise a better future to this suffering organization. Odes have already been written about their future exploits.
The point is, it takes the test of fire to know the value of the warrior (that might sound like a time-honored phrase, but rest assured we created it ourselves).
Beyond the chances of drafting Alexis Lafrenière if ever the Penguins eliminate the Habs, long-term benefits that a top draft pick could bring him instead of winning a qualifying series and losing stupidly in the next round, in the Beyond all that, this capital test against two of the biggest stars of the last 14 years in the NHL will allow the CH to understand what wood some of its youngsters are made of.
Suzuki? In oak, it seems.
A lot of
Julien and his assistants managed to calm things down after a more chaotic first period where CH were dominated 18-6 on penalties.
«There were a lot of adjustments tonight, but the focus was there from start to finish. We were ready to do whatever it takes to win. In overtime, I told the players that if we play with fear of losing, we will lose, but if we are determined to win, we will win.», Dropped the pilot.
Carey Price turned away 39 shots and was extremely reassuring, especially in a troubled early part of the game, which allowed “ calm everyone down As Jeff Petry explained.
There haven’t been any best-of-five playoffs in the NHL since 1986, but, for what it’s worth, in history, the team that won the first game of such a short streak triumphed in 82% of cases (68 in 83). The Penguins suddenly have a lot of pressure.
Gallery: The history of hockey in 30 pictures (Espresso)