This past week saw the Habs fall out of the playoffs for the first time all season, despite the team winning one of their two games. Things were better for St. John’s as they were able to pick up five of six points to snap their slump. Plus, it’s rare that the make or break part of the schedule comes this early but my Final Thought looks at why it’s the case now for Montreal.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Daniel Carr. In his first game back, he picked up where he left off, making an impact in front of the crease and having an all-around solid game despite limited ice time. It kind of makes you wonder why he was sent down to begin with.
2) A good response to Marc Bergevin’s comments. After their GM spoke to them on Thursday, the players talked about it hopefully giving them a spark. That spark was there in the first period against Toronto. (The rest of the game, not so much, but baby steps…)
3) Lars Eller. The point production still isn’t there but he looks a lot more confident as the #3 centre and is making much more of an impact in that role than on Galchenyuk’s wing. We all know Eller has his good moments followed by tough stretches but his role now looks like one where he could be a more consistent presence than we’ve seen.
1) The Boston game. After a pair of tough ones out West (where they deserved a better fate against the Blues), they came out with a stinker of an effort against an arch rival. That just can’t happen and I suspect this game had a lot to do with Bergevin coming out and saying no changes to the coaching staff are coming this year.
2) More bad luck. Three times against Toronto, the Habs had a puck go halfway over the goal line – Carr and Brendan Gallagher in regulation plus Brian Flynn in the shootout. We keep hearing about how the team has no puck luck, one of these days that has to change, right?
3) Overusing P.K. Subban on the power play. Montreal had 14:07 of PP time over the last two games. Subban played all but ten seconds of that. With the team asking Subban to log more minutes with Andrei Markov struggling, why not take Subban off for the second shift and put one of Nathan Beaulieu or Mark Barberio out there? What’s the worst case scenario, they don’t score? The PP with Subban playing the full two minutes is already doing that on a regular basis. There’s nothing really to lose here.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Max Pacioretty (19)
Assists: P.K. Subban (30)
Points: Max Pacioretty (36)
+/-: P.K. Subban (+7)
PIMS: P.K. Subban (47)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (186)
St. John’s had a bounce back week, winning a pair of key divisional games in Albany while picking up a single point in their other outing in Bridgeport.
News and Notes:
– Victor Bartley’s debut wasn’t a memorable one as he left his first game with St. John’s with an undisclosed injury and missed the two games in Albany. Bud Holloway missed all three games and is listed as day-to-day.
– Sven Andrighetto has at least a point in four of five games since being sent down by Montreal. Dating back to November, he has twelve points in his last nine outings.
– Michael McCarron is in a bit of a scoring funk. Since recording a hat trick on December 16th, he has yet to score again, a span of twelve games. He has four assists in that span.
– Lines from last game:
Lessio – McCarron – Scherbak
Andrighetto – Hudon – Eisenschmid
Bournival – Dumont – Friberg
Scott – MacMillan – Gregoire
Ellis – Dietz
Hanley – Lernout
Johnston – Didier
January 20: Bridgeport 3, St. John’s 2 (OT)
January 22: St. John’s 4, Albany 2
January 23: St. John’s 2, Albany 1
Goals: Hudon/McCarron (13)
Assists: Bud Holloway (24)
Points: Bud Holloway (35)
+/-: Morgan Ellis (+12)
PIMS: Stefan Fournier (65)
Shots: Bud Holloway (100)
January 27: St. John’s vs Portland
January 29: St. John’s vs Portland
January 30: St. John’s vs Hartford
Considering we’re still in January, it’s hard to come out and say that the next few weeks will make or break Montreal’s season. Unfortunately, with the spot they’re in now, that feels exactly like the case. The next six opponents for the Habs are all out of a playoff spot…just like the Canadiens, of course.
If the Habs get back to the win column and take four or five, they’re probably back in a playoff spot (or very close to it) with the optimism of Carey Price returning (assuming there are no further setbacks). If they tread water (say, seven points in those games), they’re still out but are within a game or two with the reigning league MVP not far away from returning; the thought of him being able to make up a four or five point gap isn’t crazy. But, if the struggles continue over the next couple of weeks and they wind up losing four or more of these games, they’re likely going to be too far out to come back barring a comparable run to the start of the season.
While Marc Bergevin said to blame him in his press conference, he also sent a message to the team by saying the coaches are safe and there aren’t any trades on the horizon. Whether he meant to or not, he put the pressure squarely back on the players. This soft spot in the schedule could be what they need to get back into the hunt. Or, it could more or less end their season. I’m curious to see which way the players respond.