It has been a foregone conclusion for a while but it’s now official, the Habs won’t be making the playoffs. While it’s not yet official for St. John’s, it’s pretty close after they dropped two of three games. Plus, while it may not seem like there are reasons to watch the last couple of weeks, my Final Thought looks at a few things to watch for down the stretch.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Joel Hanley’s surprising and completely unsustainable point production. In four games with the Habs, he has four assists. For comparison, he has a grand total of eight in 61 AHL games. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see him have a bit of success when no one really expected him to do much of anything. Hanley is still in a spot where he’s realistically fighting for a contract in the summer. He’s helping his case right now.
2) Lucas Lessio’s first goal with the Habs. He has been working hard since getting recalled and hadn’t had a whole lot go his way up until that point. (Of course, he had to go and get hurt the next game, that’s just the kind of year it has been for him.) If he’s able to come back between now and the end of the year, it would be nice to see him get some more ice time.
3) The third period effort against Detroit. Considering through 40 minutes they were getting completely outclassed, it was good to see the Habs show a bit of pride and at least make a game of it instead of continuing to just roll over. That said…
1) The complete lack of effort in the first two periods against Detroit and the poor effort against the Rangers. This is a team filled with youngsters trying to make an impression, the effort level from those players at the very least should be consistently high. It isn’t, nor are the veterans providing much in that department either. It shouldn’t take getting blown out and embarrassed to show up, even if they are just playing out the stretch.
2) The continued appearance of Alexei Emelin on power plays. I can understand why he’s out there – he’s the veteran who has been there all year and now he’s getting a chance to play the ‘juicier’ minutes. But Emelin struggles with the puck too much to really justify him playing there. Hanley and Darren Dietz are at least a bit more used to playing with the man advantage as both see spot duty there in the minors. Why not give them the time instead to help in evaluating their potential futures?
3) Continuing penalty kill struggles. What was once a strength for this team has become a weakness in recent weeks. In the last eight games, the Canadiens have a success rate of just 70.8%. I get that they’re down a couple more players in that time but there are still enough regulars out there that it shouldn’t be this bad. There’s minimal attention to detail and frankly, inconsistent effort. That’s never a recipe for success, no matter how good or bad a team is.
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Goals: Alex Galchenyuk (27)
Assists: P.K. Subban (45)
Points: Max Pacioretty (55)
+/-: Brendan Gallagher (+11)
PIMS: P.K. Subban (75)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (279)
Although the offence was (surprisingly) strong, the IceCaps were a disaster in their own end, allowing a whopping 14 goals in three games, including blowing a 5-1 third period lead against Rochester.
News and Notes:
– Mac Bennett, Travis Brown, and Angelo Miceli were all assigned to Brampton of the ECHL to play on Sunday. Bennett and Miceli have already been recalled.
– Defenceman Tom Parisi signed a tryout deal with St. John’s on Saturday. The newest Hab prospect will finish off the season with the IceCaps. Perhaps he’ll push John Scott (who played the entire week as a defenceman) back up front.
– Nikita Scherbak has 13 points in his last 15 games. 12 of those points were assists.
– Heading into Sunday’s games, Charles Hudon was tied for fifth overall in goals. One of the players tied for third is up in the NHL right now so Hudon has a shot at climbing a little higher yet.
– Lines from last game:
McNally – Dumont – Friberg
Hudon – Scherbak – Holloway
Yogan – MacMillan – Gregoire
Bozon – Ward – Ranger
Didier – Lernout
Joyaux – Ellis
Scott – Johnston
Goals: Charles Hudon (26)
Assists: Bud Holloway (38)
Points: Bud Holloway (57)
+/-: Daniel Carr (+7)
PIMS: Michael McCarron (82)
Shots: Charles Hudon (166)
March 29: St. John’s vs Toronto
April 1: Lehigh Valley vs St. John’s
April 2: Lehigh Valley vs St. John’s
With the Habs now officially out of the playoffs, a common theme out there even more now is "Why should I keep watching?" Yes, there are two largely meaningless weeks left but there are a few reasons to turn the TV to the game:
– Condon’s career high: Mike Condon will likely set a new career high in games played in a single season (his record is 52, set two years ago, split between Wheeling and Hamilton; that number does include playoffs). He’s showing signs of slowing down in recent weeks but he usually follows those up with a good string of games. Does he have another one of those left in him to finish on a high note?
– McCarron’s readiness: So far in his stint with the big club, Michael McCarron has shown some signs that he’s ready to help next season and others that suggest he’s not ready. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start to get some more ice time in the last few games to see how he can handle bigger minutes.
– Price’s potential return: If and when Carey Price does make it back, it’s appointment television right then and there. Price being in fine form for a couple of games would go a long way towards assuaging some fears and concerns for next season.
– Galchenyuk’s quests for three: Alex Galchenyuk finds himself three goals away from 30 and also three assists away from tying his career high that was set last year. Can he hit one of those marks? Could he get both of them?
– Scoring race: If P.K. Subban is indeed ready to return for the next game, he’ll head into it four points behind Max Pacioretty for the team lead in points. Can Subban catch fire and stop Pacioretty from leading the team in points for the fourth straight season?
If none of those really get you too excited, consider this. There are six games left. After those, there won’t be any for six months. Watch them while you can, lest you prolong what will already be an agonizing wait between mid-April and October.