The Habs saved their best week of the month for last, picking up five of six points and played much better overall. Things weren’t as good for St. John’s as their swoon continues. Things were even better for Paul Byron though; his new contract is the subject of my Final Thought.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Mike Condon, who over the last couple of weeks has turned his game around. I know some want the Habs to lose the rest of the way (which means Condon needs to struggle for that to happen) but he was looking completely overwhelmed just a few weeks ago. It’s nice to see the confidence return to his game.
2) A good first impression from Phillip Danault. He made his presence felt early against Toronto with some strong play on the penalty kill and was sharp at the faceoff dot all night. Expectations are often high for new arrivals – especially those acquired for the two main trading chips the Habs had – and he didn’t disappoint.
3) A good (potentially) last impression. Both Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann – the main trading chips Marc Bergevin had to use – had strong final games in a Montreal uniform while others that some expect or hope to be moved – Devante Smith-Pelly, Lars Eller, and Andrei Markov – didn’t hurt their cases in any of the games this past week.
1) The bad luck with Tom Gilbert’s knee injury. It’s believed that it was a recurring issue but of all the times for it to take a turn for the worse, it had to be now. However, if it was a longer-term issue and not a one-time thing, that would have mitigated his trade value somewhat. Still, though, when there aren’t many rentals to move, it hurts to lose one of them before you can actually make a move.
2) Another penalty to P.K. Subban for arguing with the referees (this time from the bench). We already know he doesn’t often get the benefit of the doubt; becoming more and more vocal in showing his displeasure with a call or lack thereof certainly isn’t going to help that. It’ll only make it worse. He needs to control himself better in these cases.
3) Michel Therrien, who seems to be going against his word. He noted recently that he wants to play the youngsters more but he has played Markov more than his season average (which already is too high) in seven of the last eight games. I know there are injuries but the ice time on the back end can still be a lot more balanced than it currently is. If this is the time to evaluate players like Victor Bartley and Mark Barberio (who both play the left side), they need to play more and Markov less.
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Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Max Pacioretty (23)
Assists: P.K. Subban (42)
Points: P.K. Subban (47)
+/-: Brendan Gallagher (+10)
PIMS: P.K. Subban (73)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (234)
If St. John’s could just play Syracuse every game, they’d be in good shape. Unfortunately, there are other opponents out there and the IceCaps are losing to each and every one of them as their playoff hopes continue to fade.
News and Notes:
– St. John’s got some help from the infirmary as Charles Hudon, Gabriel Dumont, and Jeremy Gregoire all returned to the lineup. (And unlike what usually happens when a player comes back, no one got hurt even.)
– Forward Evan Rankin was released from his PTO and has returned to ECHL Toledo.
– With Victor Bartley and Morgan Ellis recalled to Montreal, the IceCaps promoted blueliners Travis Brown and Mac Bennett from ECHL Brampton. Brown actually scored in his AHL debut on Saturday.
– Lines from last game:
McNally – Scherbak – Holloway
Hudon – Dumont – Friberg
Bozon – MacMillan – Ranger
Scott – Gregoire – Bakker
Dietz – Lernout
Hanley – Johnston
Brown – Didier
Goals: Charles Hudon (18)
Assists: Bud Holloway (30)
Points: Bud Holloway (46)
+/-: Morgan Ellis (+8)
PIMS: Michael McCarron (82)
Shots: Bud Holloway (137)
March 4: Albany vs St. John’s
March 5: Albany vs St. John’s
One player who some expected to be on the move was Paul Byron. Of course, with him signing a three year extension earlier in the week, that’s out the window. Since we didn’t do a group piece on the signing (we will have one on the Weise trade though), here is my take on the signing.
In terms of money, it’s not a bad move. Byron has shown himself to be a useful fourth liner whose speed makes him a very dangerous threat, especially while shorthanded. That’s a premium skill and to have a fourth liner with a premium skill is nice to have.
What isn’t quite so nice is the term of the contract. The Habs have quite a few young players in the pipeline that are suited to a fourth line type of role. I’m not going to make the argument that they should have just given the spot to a youngster but a couple of years from now, there are going to be a lot of fourth line players. Lots of depth is nice but that much depth in that area seems a bit redundant.
That said, it’s not like Byron will be untradeable if he is pushed out of the lineup. Again, it’s not like this is an excessively pricey deal. It’s not a huge bargain either but it’s a fair contract. There’s a cap crunch coming but it’s not these types of deals that will be problematic to a salary structure moving forward.
All in all, it’s a fine extension to ink and I don’t mind them doing it now. If he’s a guy you want next year, don’t try to do the trade-and-sign-later approach, especially when his value would have been near a mid-round pick. But I’d be surprised if he plays out the entire term of the contract in a Montreal uniform.