While Montreal’s trip to Western Canada didn’t start off particularly well, the Habs were able to win their final two games to pick up four of six points.
The Week That Was
Nov. 13: Oilers 6, Canadiens 2 – Claude Julien decided to give Carey Price an extra game off which left Antti Niemi under siege in this one. Although Niemi made some big stops along the way, he also allowed some particularly ugly goals. The game was tied 2-2 early in the second period but even then, it didn’t really feel like the Habs were in it.
Nov. 15: Canadiens 3, Flames 2 – With Price back between the pipes, there was plenty of intrigue heading into this one to see if he’d continue to struggle or show some signs of improvement. Fortunately for Montreal, it was the latter. He made 43 saves while the Habs picked up a pair of third period goals with Artturi Lehkonen scoring the winner.
Nov. 17: Canadiens 3, Canucks 2 – In a game that featured a lot of skating but not a lot of high-end chances, the Habs found themselves once again down a goal in the third after allowing a power play goal to top rookie Elias Pettersson. Once again though, Montreal was able to pull off the come back with Jonathan Drouin getting the game winner (on the power play, no less) with less than three minutes to go.
Goals: Max Domi (10)
Assists: Domi/Petry (14)
Points: Max Domi (24)
+/-: Victor Mete (+6)
PIMS: Andrew Shaw (18)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (66)
News And Notes
– Shea Weber has started skating with the team as he continues to work his way back from knee surgery. There have been reports suggesting he could be ready to return later this month instead of mid-December which was his initial timeline. The team is only saying he’s on track and that he’s not ahead of schedule (which is a much smarter PR move than they’ve done in the past).
– Nikita Scherbak was recalled from his conditioning stint in Laval but did not join the team on the road. Instead, he remained in Montreal for treatment on his lower-body injury. He hasn’t been moved to injured reserve yet but if they want to bring up another forward from the Rocket to have one extra forward available, they’ll need to do so.
– While it feels like the Habs get off to a lot more quick starts this season, they also happen to be tied for the league lead in goals allowed in the first period with 22, an average of 1.1 per game. That’s actually pretty close to their average from last year (0.98) which was fourth-worst in the NHL.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Domi – Shaw
Agostino – Kotkaniemi – Lehkonen
Deslauriers – Peca – Hudon
Benn – Petry
Schlemko – Juulsen
Ouellet – Mete
The Week Ahead
Nov. 19: vs Washington – It’s a battle between a playoff team and a non-playoff team but who’s who here is not what many would have thought heading into the year. The Capitals have been really good some nights and really terrible in others and the end result has been a rather inauspicious start. Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie all missed their last game due to injury and while Holtby could be available, the other two aren’t expected to suit up.
Nov. 21: at New Jersey – Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri have once again combined to be a strong one-two punch but they haven’t had a lot of support from the rest of the team. Cory Schneider is now healthy after missing the start of the season but he has struggled mightily so far.
Nov. 23: at Buffalo – In a rare afternoon start, the Habs will try to get some revenge on the Sabres after dropping a pair of one-goal games against them already. Their top line with Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Jason Pominville continues to do most of the damage and stopping them will be crucial if the Habs want to get the win this time around.
Nov. 24: vs Boston – The injuries to their back end is starting to reach the comical level. They are now missing six players from their back end (and only one of those was an earlier injury recall). Their top line continues to be among the best in the league while former Hab Jaroslav Halak has made a pretty good push to take over as their starting goalie.
Mike Reilly expressed his surprise from being scratched in Calgary (something that continued on Saturday) but this shouldn’t have been a surprise. The reality is that his ice time has been slashed considerably as of late. In his first nine games, he averaged 22:36 per night. In his next nine, it’s down to 19:20 and that’s the case in spite of the fact he was seeing more power play time. Clearly, the coaching staff hasn’t been happy with him so it’s not shocking that he sat a game.
To be honest, the last part of that sentence applies for everyone not named Jeff Petry. Montreal’s defence corps is a collection of fringe players beyond him (and yes, that includes Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen who have upside but aren’t impact players just yet). With eight defencemen on the roster and not a significant gap between most of them, it’s only reasonable that they’re going to want to rotate them to keep most of them (well, everyone but Karl Alzner) fresh. That’s what happens with depth, someone decent is going to have to sit. Reilly and Xavier Ouellet sat this past week. Maybe it’s Jordie Benn and David Schlemko this coming week. Until someone gets hurt, traded, or stands out (the latter would be really nice), that’s just how it’s going to be.