(Chicago) The evening began with the voice of Jim Cornelison and ended with All I Want for Christmas Is You. Certainly not a crescendo for music lovers, but for the Canadian, it was something else.

The team recovered from a messy first half of the game to defeat the Blackhawks 5-2, and give themselves the right to break their ears to the cheerful tunes of Mariah Carey.

No way to find the culprit. “It’s usually Dale [Lablans], our fitness coach, who chooses the music, but I have no idea for tonight,” admitted a slightly amused Nick Suzuki.

Juraj Slafkovsky never hesitates to let his guard down in front of the microphones, but he was even more candid when asked why the hell he was wearing Jake Evans’ number 71 jersey and cap.

“I was trying to find my sweater, but they gave me shit because I couldn’t find it, so I just took the first one I found,” the man said with a laugh. big teenager. It’s a bit tight! »

Cayden Primeau is actually a nice guy, but the microphones and cameras, as soon as they are counted in multiples of three, encourage him to tense up. Then we started talking to him about Cornelison, the real hero of this evening. His performance of the national anthem is undoubtedly the most exhilarating experience in all 32 NHL arenas. Imagine for an American who plays his first game in this hockey cathedral that is the United Center.

Very cool too because during a commercial break Cornelison sang a few bars of the theme song from The Grumpy Who Wanted to Ruin Christmas. Let’s say that in terms of entertainment, we were far from the games where Mike Matheson has to guess the price of a roll of toilet paper at IGA.

This locker room was festive, therefore, for many reasons. With this gain, the Montrealers go on break with a 4-1-2 record in the last fortnight. We are far from the 1-4-1 which preceded Christmas 2022.

The players leave each other seeing a first trio which, without being Nichushkin-MacKinnon-Rantanen, is operating at high speed. Suzuki has eight points in his last five games and Slafkovsky is showing more and more encouraging signs.

“It’s big,” assured Martin St-Louis, regarding Slafkovsky. Our group thrives on that. The guys see his growth and they are excited. He doesn’t do it by cheating. He plays hard, honest hockey and he gets rewarded. »

It would be ill-advised to mention the Grumpy without raising the downsides behind this sequence of success for the Habs.

It starts with the quality of the opposition. Four of those games were against teams in the NHL’s bottom third, with the worst being Friday’s 31st-ranked rivals.

Inconsistency is another thing to watch out for. Last Saturday, it was the four-goal lead against the Islanders that melted like snow in the sun. Thursday, in Minnesota, the team seemed stiff in the first period. And Friday ?

“We didn’t have a good start,” Suzuki said. The 2-0 Chicago score at the start of the second period indeed confirms his words.

St-Louis enjoyed the first minutes, before recognizing that the club was “lucky” to lose by a goal at the first intermission, and did not know “why” their men were leading after 40 minutes.

It is especially the way in which CH came back in this match that will please the coach. He insists on the importance of being organized on faceoffs, which is what he got from Mitchell Stephens, center of the fourth line, a shadow player if ever there was one. He won the faceoff and each player executed his end of the sequence, until he deflected Mike Matheson’s shot. This is how Stephens scored his first NHL goal since March 3, 2020, a few days before the planet stopped spinning. “Matty just took a one-timer and I was able to set my stick,” Stephens said humbly.

St-Louis asks its players to anticipate the game, to occupy space well, and this is what Sean Monahan did by following Jake Evans, to prepare for Josh Anderson’s goal.

And Slafkovsky’s forechecking work, another aspect of the game valued by the coach, helped prepare for the insurance goal.

The challenge for the Canadian is now significant. Their next opponents, Carolina, Florida and Tampa, are certainly ranked in the middle of the pack, but they are nevertheless mature and formidable teams on paper.

How you respond to this next challenge will determine whether their New Year’s Eve will be as festive as their December 23rd.