The Habs got off to a strong start to their week and it was looking like they had a shot at a clean sweep of all three games before some struggles on Saturday night against Ottawa proved to be costly.
The Week That Was
Oct. 15: MTL 7, DET 3 – After facing four tough opponents to start the season, the Habs finally were facing a team that isn’t expected to contend for a playoff spot. Rather than play down to the level of their opponent, Montreal scored early and often to put the game out of reach fairly quickly while giving Antti Niemi his second straight victory.
Oct. 17: MTL 3, STL 2 – The Canadiens got off to a strong start in this one but started to fade as the game went on. The Blues picked up the tying goal with just 3:29 left in regulation but Montreal benefited from a lucky play late. Colton Parayko flubbed a pass right in front of his own net. Tomas Tatar took advantage and put it on goal where Brendan Gallagher tipped home the winner with just 11 seconds left to give the Habs their third straight win at home.
Oct. 20: OTT 4, MTL 3 (OT) – Similar to the St. Louis game, Montreal got off to a great start and was dominating early. Also like the game on Wednesday, they got worse as the game progressed. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, the end result wasn’t similar. Ottawa scored a pair in the second to tie the game and then controlled the overtime before Mark Stone scored the winner midway through the extra frame.
Goals: Byron/Gallagher (4)
Assists: Jeff Petry (6)
Points: Tomas Tatar (8)
+/-: Noah Juulsen (+9)
PIMS: Andrew Shaw (10)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (22)
News And Notes
– Tomas Plekanec sustained some sort of back injury on Wednesday against St. Louis and is set to miss multiple weeks. That created an opening for Nicolas Deslauriers to come off injured reserve although he did not play particularly well in his season debut.
– Victor Mete is dealing with a minor hand issue. This allowed Karl Alzner to make his season debut and while he fared relatively well against St. Louis, he struggled on Saturday against Ottawa.
– Heading into the season, the hope was that Matthew Peca would be able to help at the faceoff dot. He won nearly 57% of his draws in his time in Tampa Bay last season but is not having anywhere near the same level of success in Montreal. Through six games, he’s at 32.1%.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Domi – Lehkonen
Byron – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Deslauriers – Peca – Shaw
Alzner – Petry
Reilly – Juulsen
Ouellet – Benn
The Week Ahead
Oct. 23: CGY vs MTL – The Flames make their lone visit to Montreal and even though they have a winning record, they come in with some question marks. James Neal has yet to make much of an impact with his new team while Mike Smith has the worst numbers of his career. Despite that, they’ve been able to outscore some of those problems thus far, checking in at just over 3.7 goals scored per game through Saturday night.
Oct. 25: BUF vs MTL – The Habs will get their first (of many) looks at 2018 top pick Rasmus Dahlin as well as a new-look group up front after the Sabres quietly shook things up with their forward group. (While Jeff Skinner has received most of the attention, Conor Sheary sits tied for second on the team in goals heading into play on Sunday). It’s still early but there could be a goalie controversy on the horizon with Linus Ullmark playing quite well in both of his starts while newcomer Carter Hutton also has the worst numbers of his career after a breakout year with St. Louis.
Oct. 27: BOS vs MTL – Boston’s top line has been dominant to start the season as the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak unit has combined for 16 goals through the first eight games. However, the rest of the team has been quieter, tallying just 11 times. Tuukka Rask has not started the season well and has – you guessed it – the worst numbers of his career thus far. That has opened the door for former Hab Jaroslav Halak to play more and both netminders have split the starts evenly thus far.
I know the Habs tried to move Jacob de la Rose (or free up a roster spot to activate him) but it’s still disappointing to see him leave for nothing after the Red Wings picked him up on waivers during the week. (Considering where they are in the waiver priority pecking order, he didn’t get very far down the list…) He’s not the flashiest of players, nor does he have a lot of offensive skill but he is a competent defensive player and penalty killer. He was also one of the few natural centres the Habs had; this is a team that has two players that spent last year on the wing (Max Domi and Jesperi Kotkaniemi) playing down the middle so it’s tough to lose some of the limited depth at that position. It’s even tougher when that depth is young, cheap, and signed for another year after this one.
At the end of the day, the loss of de la Rose isn’t going to move the needle much. He’s a filler player that could make it as a fourth liner and probably will fare better in Detroit than he did with the Habs. That said, he’s someone that could have filled a role with the team this season (it would have been much better if Plekanec’s IR placement would have been to free up a spot for him over Nicolas Deslauriers) and with the lack of NHL-calibre centre depth they have in the minors, this could hurt them a little bit down the road if/when injuries strike.