Although the Habs lost two of three this past week, they were able to officially clinch a playoff spot and remain at the top of the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs had a strong week to keep their postseason hopes alive. Regardless of whether or not Hamilton makes the playoffs, there is still a lot to be gained from simply being in the race which is the focus of my Final Thought.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Alex Galchenyuk finally getting the monkey off his back by notching his 20th goal of the season. Not only does it snap a lengthy scoring drought but it also gets him a nice pay day as it triggers a Class A bonus in his contract worth up to $212,500 (and likely that exact amount). While that will count against the cap, the Habs will be happy to foot the bill if this goal gets Galchenyuk back on track in time for the postseason.
2) P-A Parenteau, who quietly has played better as of late. He’s not going to wow anyone or even play that well in his own end but for this team to have success, he needs to be in the top six and producing. The points are slowly coming around and he seems to be getting the confidence of the coaches again which is a good sign.
3) Officially clinching a playoff spot. We’ve known for a long time now that the Canadiens are playoff-bound but it’s always nice to see the ‘x’ beside the team name.
1) The overplaying of the top pairing. When all you’re fighting for is seeding, you can afford to rest your top players a little bit. P.K. Subban has played 25+ minutes in all but two games in March (and one of those was a 24:34 outing) while Andrei Markov is averaging around 25 minutes a night this month. They don’t need to be playing that much right now; it’s time to get a bit closer to balanced ice time down the stretch.
2) Dustin Tokarski’s stinker of an outing in Winnipeg. So much for carrying momentum over from what was a strong start in Florida. He has to be making the coaches hesitant to use him which doesn’t bode well should Carey Price go down with an injury as he has the last two playoffs. One year after leap-frogging Peter Budaj in the postseason, it’s conceivable that he could be the one leap-frogged if the Habs have to change goalies at any time in the playoffs this time around.
3) Torrey Mitchell, who has not looked good since rejoining the lineup. I know he’s just coming back from injury and is still adjusting to a new team but if he doesn’t turn it around soon, he may be on the bench come the postseason. He hasn’t looked like an upgrade on Manny Malhotra just yet.
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Goals: Max Pacioretty (36) – T-4th in NHL
Assists: P.K. Subban (39)
Points: Max Pacioretty (65)
+/-: Max Pacioretty (+40) – 1st in NHL
PIMS: Brandon Prust (130) – 6th in NHL
Shots: Max Pacioretty (290) – 2nd in NHL
The Dog Pound
Although the week wasn’t without its disappointments (a tough OT loss to a weak Rochester team), the Bulldogs find themselves in better shape for the postseason after picking up five of a possible six points.
News and Notes:
– With Joey MacDonald (undisclosed injury) out indefinitely, Franky Palazzese has been recalled from Wheeling. It’s likely that Mike Condon will get the lion’s share of the work (if not every game) until MacDonald returns.
– Sahir Gill’s 25-game PTO came to an end. Rather than sign him for the rest of the season, the Bulldogs released him and he has since returned to the Nailers.
– Daniel Carr has not recorded an assist in twelve March games. Going back further, he has just two in his last 32 contests.
– Lines from the most recent game:
Tangradi – Hudon – Hensick
Carr – Andrighetto – Sorkin
Bowman – Dumont – Thomas
Fournier – Dowell – McNally
Allen – Ellis
Bennett – Dietz
Finley – Shea
Goals: Daniel Carr (22)
Assists: Charles Hudon (38)
Points: Hensick/Hudon (53)
+/-: Davis Drewiske (+15)
PIMS: Joe Finley (130)
Shots: T.J. Hensick (164)
April 2: Chicago vs Hamilton
April 4: Utica vs Hamilton
Although there’s a decent chance that the Bulldogs will miss the playoffs once again (though their chances are better now than they were a week ago) and as a result, will miss out on a chance to give some of Montreal’s better prospects some postseason experience, there is still a development opportunity for the team that has been lacking in recent years.
At this time last year, Hamilton was all but mathematically eliminated and more or less knew their fate in early March. The year before, it was even worse as they finished dead last and were toast well before the end of the season.
If nothing else, the Habs will have an opportunity to evaluate how their young prospects fare in playoff-type, must-win hockey in April. Which ones will step up their game; which ones will falter somewhat? Players can learn a lot from playing in these types of games and teams can learn about their prospects from how they perform. It’s nice that they’ll finally have the opportunity to play some meaningful hockey down the stretch. I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle the extra pressure.