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Analysis of Jurazy Slavkovski's first NHL goal: 'One of the best feelings ever'

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Montreal — That moment started long ago. even a few weeks ago.

On the first day of the Canadiens’ training camp, Brendan Gallagher made his way to rookie Juraj Slavkowski in the locker room of the team’s practice facility to comment on his rudimentary, minimalist tape job with the stick.

“I told him at camp, today, if you score on day one, you can keep it. If not, you have to add one line every day,” Gallagher said Thursday night. “So he went through camp and into the season, so there were all the lines he had to add. And he scored.”

Yes, the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft scored the first goal of his career on Thursday in a 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Whether or not the tape work had anything to do with it is debatable, but Gallagher’s influence on the young man is clearly beginning to show.

“It’s going to be a pretty crazy experience for him, especially how the crowd reacts to him,” Gallagher said. “It’s fun to watch. Everyone eats it. It always makes me feel good to see young children smiling and happy.”

In the game, Slavkowski’s fellow Arbor Jekai dropped a grab with one of the toughest customers in the NHL, Coyote forward Zach Cassian. He’s the same player who ran into Canadiens goaltender Samuel Montembaugh last season, with all of the Canadiens standing around and watching him do it. It became a flashpoint for the dysfunction and lack of pushback this team showed last season.

It’s not that Thursday night’s battle between Zekai and Kassian overturned what happened last season or had the opposite effect on his team, but it did send a message.The moment Slafkovsky experiences after one period. message that plays a role in Not only did Xhekaj win the fight, but he made his Kassian, who is listed as 6ft 3, 211lbs, look like a kid.

“I know he has TikTok running around with his hands, so it didn’t surprise me at all, but I know the crowd was surprised,” Slavkowski said. “He really kills people.” I think we can.”

When Slafkowski crossed the Coyotes’ blue line in the second period and got a high hit from Arizona defenseman Josh Brown — nothing too dirty, Brown’s hand went up a little in Slafkowski’s face — Jekai displayed the instincts he had previously shown to protect his teammates. After the hit, as Slavkowski curled towards the blue line, he felt a Zekai breeze flying beside him in the opposite direction. The target was Brown and Zekai drilled him down to the board.

“It’s my sidekick and my teammate,” Zekai explained. “If you hit me high in the face like that, I’ll run for you. So it was.”

Coach Martin St. Louis admitted it wasn’t the way he wanted the defense to play. But this time it seems to have worked.

“I like my D-Men pinching, but it was a bit of a deep pinch,” St. Louis said with a laugh. “As a coach, you just put your head on it.”

Zekai’s creation of a deep pinch forced Brown to rush the pass, and Slavkowski covered Zekai high in the zone, causing the puck to fly out on him. He stepped into the left circle and fired a shot that cleanly beaten Coyote goaltender Conor Ingram.

The Bell Center exploded and both Slavkowski and Zekai were quickly released by Brown.

“There were a lot of ‘F’s, but I don’t know what happened after that,'” laughs Slavkowski. “I had feelings, so I was giving it to him as well as Arbor.”

When Slavkowski returned to the bench, Gallagher was sitting next to him. The crowd at the Bell Center were chanting his name, showing why Montreal is a special place to play, but losing it. he remained seated. After all, he was a rookie and wasn’t sure if Gallagher was pulling a fast one at him.

“It’s special for this to happen in this building. I’ll never forget it. So far, it might have been one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt after scoring a goal.”

After the game, Slavkowski showed one of the big reasons the Canadiens put him in first place. General Manager Kent Hughes has said many times that Slavkowski has the temperament to play in this market. In front of these fans.

The players left after being robbed and beaten by teammates, including being headlocked by Zekai, who appeared to have given him a 6-foot-3, 238-pound Slavkowski Noogie had he not been wearing a helmet. The ice and buildings were waiting for the three-star announcement.

Gallagher appeared first, named the game’s third star, and returned with specific instructions for Slavkowski.

“Did he do one last lap? Did you see it?” Gallagher asked backstage.

Not only did Slavkowski take one lap as the game’s first star, throwing three game pucks into the stands, but just before throwing the final puck, he reached the edge of the rink and started egging on both sides of the building. and cheered even louder. So that they can get their packs. This showed Hughes not only embracing a moment like this, but enjoying it, enjoying it to the fullest, and speaking without fear.

When asked how the first star spiral unfolded, Gallagher said: “I made him do it.”

However, Slavkowski thought Gallagher might be pulling something fast at him.

“I try to enjoy every moment. There is no moment like this every night,” Slavkowski said. “When I got out there, I was actually thinking, ‘Are they joking that I have to go full circle (and rap)?’ Are you trying to make me do things I shouldn’t be doing?”

Two weeks after his status in the NHL was the subject of near-constant debate in Montreal, Slavkowski’s big night showed how fit he was and how teammates were excited about what was happening to him. I showed you how I share. While there are negatives to focus on when the 18-year-old rookie with the first pick is struggling to stand out, Slavkowski actually played his fifth NHL game Thursday night. , didn’t look completely out of place in one of them.. He didn’t exactly thrive, but he didn’t just survive. He learned the North American game, made the most of the time he got, and was building up to the point we witnessed on Thursday, the moment he and everyone else had been waiting for.

Now that moment is behind him, and even that could be profitable.

“I’ll take my time answering, because I think as an organization, when we treat players individually, we’re very process-focused,” St. Louis said. “But results are important for the group’s confidence as a team. Winning has to be part of the process as well.

“He did it tonight, he feels good. Will he take a step in his game? As much as we want to be process-driven, both individually and collectively, the results really help the process.”

It’s unclear how long Slavkowski will stay in the NHL. At some point, the Canadiens may want to play high-leverage minutes in the AHL, play top power plays, and be the go-to player instead of playing at the bottom of Montreal’s lineup. I can’t.

But Slavkowski is happy playing in the NHL — he joked a few days ago that his life felt like a video game because he was facing Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby — and The moment he experienced on Thursday will be crucial to his development: a high leverage minute he could earn in the AHL. Perhaps even more important.

And at least he learned an important lesson from it all.

“Now,” said Slavkowski.

(Photo of Juraj Slavkowski yelling at Josh Brown: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)