Last week featured one decent game from the Habs but a trio of stinkers as well. Things weren’t much better for the IceCaps as they dropped two of three games to further dampen their postseason hopes. Things are going better for former Hab Devante Smith-Pelly though; he is the focus of my Final Thought.
Cheers and Jeers
1) A long-awaited and well-earned first career NHL goal for Greg Pateryn. He has had to deal with a lot of ups and downs over the last year or so, particularly when it came to being benched for so long. He didn’t complain though, he just went about his business and stayed ready. Now he’s reaping the benefits of that as he’s seeing plenty of ice time and he now finally has his first ever NHL goal under his belt. Hopefully the second one doesn’t take as long to get.
2) The ‘eventful’ game in Buffalo. A battle between two struggling teams in mid-March is not often one that’s all that interesting to watch. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday night against the Sabres, a game that had almost everything you could think of and then some. (I don’t think anyone thought Ben Scrivens would venture out to centre ice during a scuffle.) Interesting games are going to be few and far between in these final few weeks so enjoy the ones that actually aren’t snoozers.
3) Michael McCarron’s first NHL marker. More specifically, how the goal was scored. Skill wise, McCarron isn’t going to stand out as a creative high-end talent. His job is to use his size to his advantage. That means he needs to be in front of the net early and often. Not surprisingly, he picked up his first NHL tally doing just that. It’s good to see he has the right idea early on in his career.
1) The power play against Ottawa. Allowing three shorthanded goals in a game is completely and utterly awful. It’s even worse when you consider they managed to score those three on their first three penalty kills. Montreal had never had this happen to them before; that’s an ugly way for those power play units to get into the record books.
2) Poor performances from many of the veteran leaders. I can appreciate that it’s hard to be motivated for these games. But as the leaders of this team, they should be leading by example and we’re not seeing that often enough (aside from Andrei Markov who is still bringing his best efforts most nights lately).
3) Mike Brown’s staged fights. Do we really need to see Brown and his buddies drop the gloves, dance around for a while, and throw a few punches on a nightly basis? Everyone knows Brown’s a fighter. If he wants to prove he’s worthy of a spot next season, perhaps he should try doing something a little different instead of his highlights being scraps with other fourth line fighters. He has a chance to show he can do a bit more than that but right now, he’s not taking advantage of that opportunity.
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Goals: Alex Galchenyuk (26)
Assists: P.K. Subban (45)
Points: Max Pacioretty (53)
+/-: Brendan Gallagher (+11)
PIMS: P.K. Subban (75)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (268)
Prior to this past week, the IceCaps had fared quite well against Syracuse, a divisional rival. However, a pair of losses to the Crunch have dropped St. John’s down to sixth in the division, doing some serious damage to their already faint playoff hopes in the process.
News and Notes:
– A pair of college free agents inked tryout contracts, defenceman Chris Joyaux (Miami-Ohio) and forward Cory Ward (Bemidji State). Joyaux played in all three games replacing Mac Bennett while Ward suited up on Sunday in place of the injured Shane Bakker.
– Max Friberg hasn’t been as prolific a point producer with the IceCaps as he was with San Diego. He has 14 points in 32 games with St. John’s while he picked up 17 points in just 25 games with the Gulls.
– Brendan McNally picked up his third goal of the month on Saturday night. He had a total of three goals combined coming into the month.
– Lines from last game:
McNally – Dumont – Friberg
Bozon – Yogan – Scherbak
Hudon – MacMillan – Holloway
Scott – Ward – Gregoire
Didier – Lernout
Joyaux – Ellis
Brown – Johnston
Goals: Charles Hudon (22)
Assists: Bud Holloway (36)
Points: Bud Holloway (54)
+/-: Daniel Carr (+7)
PIMS: Michael McCarron (82)
Shots: Charles Hudon (155)
March 23: St. John’s vs Rochester
March 25: St. John’s vs Rochester
March 26: St. John’s vs Toronto
Devante Smith-Pelly’s early success in New Jersey has some wondering if the Habs gave up on him too early or are using it to further criticize Michel Therrien’s tenure as a coach. A case be made for both but I wouldn’t call either of them fair.
First off, Smith-Pelly’s barrage of goals is unsustainable simply by looking at his shooting percentage. No one sustains a 37.5% shooting percentage for a long period of time. He’s also benefiting from playing on a team that’s bereft of talented forwards. Yes, even more so than Montreal. While that may bode well for him in the last month of the season, no one in the Devils organization is crazy enough to think that he’s a legitimate top six forward based on a late hot streak when the internal competition is weak. Thus, it’s not really fair to suggest that the Habs should have known he had this in him.
As for this being on Therrien, it’s not as if Smith-Pelly didn’t have some chances in the top six with the Canadiens. He wasn’t necessarily there for a long period of time (a consequence of playing for a team that actually has some forward depth unlike New Jersey) but he didn’t take advantage of those chances too often. He had more chances in the top six with Anaheim and didn’t really produce there either. No one out there is suggesting Bruce Boudreau is a lousy coach for mishandling Smith-Pelly. Could Therrien have tried Smith-Pelly a bit more often in a scoring role? Sure, he could have but his play made it justifiable that he didn’t.
Stefan Matteau’s largely-uninspired play certainly isn’t helping matters either. But that’s the risk you run in ‘change of scenery’ trades. You’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some and this may very well be one of the latter. It doesn’t mean it’s an organizational failure and that someone should lose their job for it though. Sometimes, players just are better fits elsewhere. It happens; it’s as simple as that.
If you want to criticize Therrien or GM Marc Bergevin, there are better cases to be made than a swap of underachieving young depth players all of three weeks after the trade occurred. Smith-Pelly is having a nice start with the Devils, good for him. But the Canadiens didn’t lose a can’t-miss genuine diamond in the rough here. Lamenting his loss is much ado about nothing to me.