The Habs came out of their bye with a good performance against Boston but weren’t able to come home with a win. Things weren’t much better in Laval who managed to pick up one win in three games but lost ground in their pursuit of a playoff spot.
(With the Habs only playing once, let’s give some of Laval’s players the spotlight instead, that can be found after the Montreal stats.)
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Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (16)
Assists: Phillip Danault (16)
Points: Galchenyuk/Pacioretty (24)
+/-: Nicolas Deslauriers (+9)
PIMS: Andrew Shaw (47)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (167)
Noah Juulsen: He has quietly been a very steady and effective blueliner for Laval. Juulsen isn’t noticeable too often (other than when he throws a big hit as he tends to do every now and then) but he hasn’t made too many mistakes either. They have been pretty cautious with his ice time so far but they should be loosening the leash sooner than later. I’d like to see him get a look on the power play; while he hasn’t been much of a point producer so far, I have more confidence in him making something happen than Tom Parisi.
Michael McCarron: I know they’re trying to develop him as a checker but really, how much development does one need to be a player who hits people and tries not to screw up in his own end? That said, he isn’t being saddled with nobodies as his wingers (Kyle Baun has been a quality AHL player for a few years now) so his lack of production (one goal since the beginning of December) is still largely on him as well. It would be nice to see him get more opportunities to develop his offensive skills while he still is waiver-exempt as isn’t that what the AHL is for, developing skills?
Nikita Scherbak: Before making a case for him being recalled following his hot start when he came back from injury, I wanted to see if he could sustain it over the next few weeks. It’s safe to say that he has done just that. Since returning 14 games ago, Scherbak has 16 points and has been held off the scoresheet just three times. That’s the type of consistency that hasn’t been there in his first two years but it’s there right now. He has earned himself another look with the Habs and the unfortunate injury to Phillip Danault may very well open up the roster spot to give him that chance.
News and Notes:
– The flu bug is making its way through the team and it kept Charlie Lindgren out of the lineup for all three games while costing Markus Eisenschmid a game as well.
– Top scorer Chris Terry is dealing with a lower-body injury sustained on Wednesday against Utica. He’s listed as day-to-day
– While Matt Taormina leads all AHL defencemen in points, he carried a nine-week goalless drought into the week but managed to snap that against Hartford.
– Lines from last game:
Audette – Cracknell – Scherbak
Veilleux – McCarron – Baun
Petti – Eisenschmid – Boucher
Broll – Ebbing – Waked
Gelinas – Taormina
Parisi – Juulsen
Leblanc – Lernout
Goals: Chris Terry (19)
Assists: Matt Taormina (30)
Points: Chris Terry (41)
+/-: Gregoire/Jerabek (+10)
PIMS: David Broll (59)
Shots: Chris Terry (125)
January 19: Belleville vs Laval
January 20: Laval vs Belleville
A lot of people were pleased to see Victor Mete return to the Habs following the World Juniors but count me among those that hope the Habs come to their senses and send him back to junior before too much longer. Don’t get me wrong, he has shown he can cut in the NHL but from a long-term perspective, it makes no sense to keep him up.
As things stand, he projects to hit the 40 games on the active roster mark at the beginning of February. It’s that number, not games played, that determines if he will accrue a season towards unrestricted free agency. By choosing to keep him in the NHL for nine weeks after that time, the Habs will be throwing away a year of team control and at that time, they could very much be right out of the playoff picture altogether. Why should nine likely meaningless weeks trump a full year of keeping him around (or at least signed a bit cheaper)?
Is he too good to go back to junior? Yes. The good news is that the OHL’s regular season ends in mid-March and London just completed a major sell-off of their roster. They’re not going far in the playoffs. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that his junior season would be over by the end of the month. That would then allow him to finish off the season in Laval and have playoff eligibility should the Rocket manage to qualify. Basically, he’ll get lots of playing time for a couple of months and then get to spend some time in the AHL which will certainly be beneficial for his development.
Is nine weeks of NHL ice time in what could very well be a bunch of meaningless games really more valuable than that (plus the extra year of team control)? If the Habs are going to do what’s best for the long-term, that’s sending him back to junior and ensuring that they’ll have an important part of their team around for one more year down the road instead of just nine weeks in the coming months even though Mete has done nothing to deserve that. That’s the business of being a junior-aged player in the NHL and Marc Bergevin needs to make the right business decision here.