Home ice is supposed to be a good thing but that wasn’t the case for the most part this past week. The Habs managed to eke out a single victory at the Bell Centre but Laval went winless in their three contests to drop even farther out of the playoff chase.
Jordie Benn: When he keeps things simple, good things happen more often than not. Unfortunately, the lack of depth on the back end has forced him into a top-four role which is far from ideal. He tries to do too much in that situation and bad things keep happening as a result. Just because his role and ice time go up doesn’t mean he should be changing the way he plays. He’s best served as a stay-at-home player and he can still be that player alongside Jakub Jerabek. Considering the risks Jerabek likes to take, Benn needs to do a better job of realizing that and stick to his strengths.
Charles Hudon: It’s nice to see him finally get rewarded as he has played pretty well all in all without a whole lot to show for it. While he isn’t a big faceoff whiz (which may have been part of the reason the experiment with him down the middle in the minors was abandoned within a week), he has done enough to not be a huge liability on the new-look Pacioretty line which has helped take a bit off Paul Byron’s shoulders. Hudon should see an uptick in playing time down the stretch and it will really important for him to find a way to be more consistent in his production.
Jeff Petry: He has had some really rough weeks this season but this wasn’t one of them. He was aggressive offensively (it’s okay for him to do that but not Benn) which seemed to get him more engaged in the play which paid dividends at the defensive end. He has established that he’s not capable of playing at this level over a full season so enjoy weeks like this when they do come.
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Goals: Brendan Gallagher (18)
Assists: Jonathan Drouin (19)
Points: Max Pacioretty (31)
+/-: Nicolas Deslauriers (+8)
PIMS: Andrew Shaw (47)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (183)
Home ice has not been kind to Laval as of late. They lost all three of their games at home this past week and dating back to mid-November, they’ve won just twice in 17 games with home-ice advantage.
News and Notes:
– Chris Terry made his return to the lineup on Friday and as usual, he made an immediate impact as one of only a few players who are capable of producing. Right winger Antoine Waked missed all three games due to illness but he should be ready to go for their next game in early February.
– Zach Fucale was recalled from ECHL Brampton on Monday and dressed as the backup on Wednesday. He was then sent back to the Beast on Thursday which creates the question of why they even bothered to bring him up in the first place.
– Daniel Audette’s goal on Saturday was his tenth of the season, matching his total from his rookie year. He had 10 tallies in 75 games last season but needed just 46 to reach that total in 2017-18.
– Lines from last game:
Terry – McCarron – Scherbak
Audette – Cracknell – Boucher
Veilleux – Petti – Gregoire
Broll – Eisenschmid – Baun
Gelinas – Taormina
Parisi – Juulsen
Leblanc – Lernout
Goals: Chris Terry (20)
Assists: Matt Taormina (36)
Points: Chris Terry (43)
+/-: Gregoire/Jerabek (+10)
PIMS: Jeremy Gregoire (68)
Shots: Chris Terry (136)
January 29: AHL All-Star Classic
February 3: Laval vs Toronto
While it seems like a virtual certainly that the Habs will be sellers by the trade deadline, that doesn’t mean we should be expecting Marc Bergevin to be moving players in the days to come. There are a couple of elements at play that will likely be delaying things.
The first is the salary cap. While there are contending teams that may have interest in some of Montreal’s players, some of those squads find themselves pretty tight to the cap. They’re going to want to wait until closer to the deadline to make a move in order to either have enough space to make a deal or to free up enough to make a second move after that.
The other is that it looks like there will be more sellers than usual (largely thanks to how bad the Atlantic Division is). There’s a very good chance that this will wind up being a buyers’ market before all is said and done so those teams will likely wind up trying to wait teams out to get the asking price to come down.
Neither of these bode well for anyone hoping for Montreal to be active early in the trade market with an eye on opening up some roster spots for players in Laval (not that there are all that many deserving of a recall – Scherbak and Cracknell are basically the beginning and ending of that list). This is going to drag out for a while yet so while the roster might look a little different after February 26th, there’s a good chance it’ll look very close to what it is now until just before then.