MONTRIL – Justin Baron adds a pass just inside the Ottawa senators’ blue line, quickly fouls and pucks off goaltender Anton Forsberg. It comes back to him with a failed clearing attempt by an Ottawa defender and he sweeps it with his toe and shifts it to the ankle when he starts to pedal and cross the blue line and back up. Left facing circle.
That’s when Baron, 20, in his seventh NHL game, his fifth with Montreal Canadians and his first at Bell Center, dropped a shot that kissed the top of the net and tied the game 2-2 with only 40 Tim Stützle making it a 2-1 senator. Seconds after. It’s a big-league game from the prospect of a big-league prospect, the kind of game you dream of when you imagine your first goal in a world top league as a kid and it gets fans off their feet and make a fuss at full volume.
Baron grew up in Halifax, loyal to Toronto Maple Leafs, but he realized a dream with Canadians on Tuesday when those fans gave him an explosive congratulation as he announced his milestone.
The cameras panned out to him, and the kid sat there in the middle of the bench soaking everything.
In a typical world, this great moment would be followed by a win for the Baron’s team, with him available to answer questions about this indefinite experience instead of lying on the coach’s table after an awkward clash with Matthew Joseph in the open. The net goal that made it a 6-3 win for Ottawa made it even worse to wear.
But hey, that’s NHL life.
The baron is now living it, and he suddenly seems to have become much more accustomed to it than when he first arrived in Montreal for a major acquisition of a business that sent Arthur Leconen to the Colorado Avalanche on March 21.
Former 25M The overall pick of the 2020 draft landed with big expectations on his shoulders and was a bit shaken by his first few games.
But there was no sign of nerves that night.
“I think JB is a hockey player,” said Canadian coach Martin St. Louis. “I don’t think he’s upset with the NHL. I think he comes to the ice and realizes that the lines are going to be in the same place and the boards and rink sizes and nets are going to be in the same place. He’s just playing the game, and you can see his politeness, and I’m glad I saw the little sample. “
The 18-minute episode was Baron’s best as a Canadian.
You can see the trend in that direction during the first period. And the goal in the eighth minute of the second was more wind in his sails.
Baron finished the game by completing most of his passes, leading the Canadians with five shots into the net, gaining second star of the night and impressing his teammates.
“I didn’t know much about him,” said David Savard. “He goes well and makes good decisions – defensively and aggressively. He doesn’t really put himself in trouble, and that’s a good thing to see. He doesn’t think too much, he believes in his talent.
With this young and inexperienced Canadian defense corps it is becoming a bit of a trend. This was certainly evident in Saturday’s 5-4 win over Tampa Bay Lightning overtime, and it happened again on Tuesday – even at this rate.
Jordan Harris was impressed with that weekend’s game—His NHL debut — and against the senators in it. As did 22-year-old Alexander Romanov, who took the next step in his development and relied on playing more minutes per game than anyone else in the league since March 15. And then there’s the 26-year-old Corey Schweinman, the underdraft bluiner who made a big mistake in the sixth minute of the first period to allow Austin Watson to tie the game 1-1 but played the rest of the contest as if it never happened.
Yet, it was the baron’s dynamism, politeness and aggressive intelligence that made him shine. And his goal was the biggest moment of the game — even 11 minutes later, a collision between Nick Suzuki and Stuttgart resulted in Suzuki getting a knee-jerk penalty, angering the Canadians at the moment, and Brendon Gallagher (who jumped into Stuttgart in the third period).
But he calmed down and wanted to say it about his relatively new teammate.
“It’s still too early, but you can see his talent,” Gallagher began. “He scored a great goal tonight. It uses a great shot, smart shot, screen, puts it in a perfect place. No one expects the whole drama. He made a lot of good readings on the ice. He must have potential, he must have talent and hopefully we can help him. He is showing signs of being a really promising player to move forward. “