The Habs ended 2017 with a week to forget as their offence dried up completely, squandering solid performances from Carey Price. The same can’t be said for Laval as they won all three of their games while getting some offensive contributions from unexpected sources.
Nicolas Deslauriers: Can those in the media perpetuating this ‘heart and soul of the team/fourth line’ nonsense give it up? Yes, Deslauriers has done quite well but let’s not go too over the top here. He’s a fourth line player, hardly irreplaceable, and certainly not the heart and soul of the team. To even suggest he could be that is quite insulting to many of the longer-tenured Canadiens. He’s having a nice run and has helped the team most nights. There’s nothing wrong with that but the praise doesn’t need to go any further.
Brett Lernout: I’m glad he got the recall following the break and another chance to make an impression. He didn’t dominate by any stretch in either of his games but he didn’t look out of place either. Even if he finds himself back in the minors in the coming days (depending on what happens with Victor Mete), he did enough in these two appearances to keep himself in the conversation for the next time injuries strike.
Joe Morrow: He has had some adventures in his own end but I think some of the ire directed his way is a bit much. He was brought in to be a depth defenceman to the point where many (myself included) thought he’d be in Laval for the most part. Instead, he made the team as a depth defender. With injuries and others struggling, the Habs are asking him to play a top-four role, something he hasn’t done at the NHL level. Naturally, he’s going to struggle at times. All in all, I’d suggest he has already exceeded expectations for this season although the bar was admittedly set pretty low.
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (15)
Assists: Phillip Danault (14)
Points: Danault/Galchenyuk/Gallagher (21)
+/-: Nicolas Deslauriers (+10)
PIMS: Andrew Shaw (45)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (147)
After the end of November and most of December were nothing but negatives, the Rocket were able to finish off 2017 on a high note by winning three straight road games.
News and Notes:
– Jeremy Gregoire suffered a lower-body injury on Saturday night. He will be evaluated later in the week and there is no current timetable for how much time he’ll miss.
– Chris Terry has quietly worked his way up to second in the AHL in points, just one behind Chris Bourque (Hershey).
– Since returning to the lineup mid-December, Nikita Scherbak has recorded at least a point in six of eight games and has a total of ten points in that span. If he keeps this up much longer, he will be earning himself another look with the Habs.
– Lines from last game:
Terry – Cracknell – Scherbak
Veilleux – McCarron – Gregoire
Petti – Audette – Waked
Boucher – Eisenschmid – Baun
Gelinas – Taormina
Parisi – Juulsen
Bourque – Leblanc
Goals: Chris Terry (18)
Assists: Matt Taormina (25)
Points: Chris Terry (38)
+/-: Gregoire/Jerabek (+10)
PIMS: Michael McCarron (51)
Shots: Chris Terry (111)
January 3: Toronto vs Laval
January 5: Laval vs Utica
January 6: Laval vs Binghamton
As is the annual tradition, here’s a look back at the top stories of what wound up being a very interesting 2017.
1) Julien in, Therrien out: With the Habs in freefall, Marc Bergevin made a coaching change back in mid-February by letting Michel Therrien go and replacing him with Claude Julien. Julien received a pricey, long-term contract ($5 million per year through 2021-22), a clear sign that he will have time to turn the current slide around as well. Only Toronto’s Mike Babcock is under contract longer than Montreal’s bench boss.
2) Drouin for Sergachev: For the second straight year, Bergevin made a big shake-up trade, dealing top prospect Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay for Jonathan Drouin. (There were conditional picks involved as well but those will be out the window within a week…) Drouin hasn’t fared particularly well as he makes the transition to a new position but the flashes of offensive upside are certainly there. Meanwhile, Sergachev has fit in quite well with the Lightning and has become a staple on their power play.
3) The price for Price: The Habs wasted little time getting Carey Price signed as expected. What came as a bit more of a surprise was the cost as Price landed an eight-year, $84 million deal, the richest deal for a goaltender in NHL history. There’s no denying he’s Montreal’s MVP but it will be interesting to see how management navigates surrounding Price with enough of a supporting cast in the years to come.
4) Markov and Radulov walk: For the first time since 1999-2000, Andrei Markov isn’t patrolling Montreal’s back end. He and the team weren’t able to agree to terms on a new contract and he is now in the KHL. After playing near a point-per-game pace early on, his production has really tapered off as of late. The Habs weren’t able to re-sign Alexander Radulov either. He spurned what can at least be classified as a similar offer (there have been reports the Habs offered the identical deal or very close to it) from the team to join Dallas instead. He’s off to a strong start in his first season with them. Suffice it to say, the Habs miss both players, a fact that’s exacerbated by the fact that neither were adequately replaced.
5) Mete’s emergence: I don’t think anyone really expected Victor Mete to spend most of the first two months in Montreal’s top-six, including Mete himself. Instead, he played his way into a regular role and spent a lot of time on the top pairing with Shea Weber. It remains to be seen if he’ll go back to the Habs or to the OHL following the World Juniors but even if it’s the latter, he certainly has made quite the impression in his rookie season.