The Habs wrapped up 2018 on a high note and started off 2019 well before a poor showing against Nashville ended their week on a low note.
The Week That Was
Dec. 31: Canadiens 3, Stars 2 (OT) – After an ugly performance against Tampa Bay, Antti Niemi was back between the pipes against his former team (that’s still paying him not to play for them). Montreal’s defence fell asleep in the second period and as a result, they were trailing 2-1 heading into the third period. Phillip Danault picked up his second of the game midway through the third and Jeff Petry scored in the early seconds of overtime to get the winner but the story was Niemi who made 45 saves in a very strong showing.
Jan. 3: Canadiens 2, Canucks 0 – Carey Price returned after missing the back half of the road trip with a lingering issue and he put the rest to good use as he was at the top of his game. Jordie Benn continued his surprising run offensively to open the scoring while Jonathan Drouin added a goal in the second period and Price took it from there. There was an incident of some controversy when Jesperi Kotkaniemi hooked Elias Pettersson and after the two collided, the latter went down awkwardly and had to leave the game.
Jan. 5: Predators 4, Canadiens 1 – The Habs had a chance to sweep the week and instead, they went down with a whimper in one of their poorer games of the season. Nashville took it to them early and often and Montreal couldn’t get much going throughout the night. Former Predator Shea Weber scored the lone goal for the Habs while former Hab P.K. Subban had a pair of assists.
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (15)
Assists: Max Domi (24)
Points: Max Domi (38)
+/-: Phillip Danault (+10)
PIMS: Max Domi (45)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (147)
News And Notes
– On top of Price returning (which saw Michael McNiven return to Laval), the Habs also got Joel Armia back from his knee injury. Instead of forcing a roster move though, Armia took the place of Andrew Shaw who sustained a neck injury against Dallas, resulting in him going on injured reserve. David Schlemko has been participating in full practices so he’s close to being activated off IR as well.
– Jordie Benn has put up five points in his last six games after having just four in his first 35 contests. The reduced role suits him well so here’s hoping he isn’t asked to play in the top four anytime soon.
– After scoring at a higher-than-expected pace early on, Max Domi has cooled down considerably as of late. He hasn’t scored in 12 straight games (but has seven assists in that span) and has just three tallies over his last 20 contests.
Last Game’s Lines:
Byron – Domi – Drouin
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Deslauriers – Chaput – Agostino
Mete – Weber
Reilly – Petry
Kulak – Benn
The Week Ahead
Jan. 7: vs Minnesota – The Wild wrap up their Eastern Canada road trip with this game and will be looking for a repeat of their performance last month when they simply annihilated Montreal. They’re a deep team that is like Montreal in that they score more by committee compared to one top line doing most of the damage. Minnesota will be without their top offensive threat on the back end though as Mathew Dumba is out until late March at the earliest after undergoing surgery late last month.
Jan. 8: at Detroit – This will mark the first of three back-to-back sets over the next two weeks for the Canadiens. Detroit is in the midst of a tough stretch having won just two of their last dozen games heading into play on Sunday and are badly missing veteran defenceman Mike Green (they’re 3-13-5 when he doesn’t play) and fortunately for the Habs, he’s still about a week away from returning. The Red Wings are 28th in the league in goals allowed so this could be an opportunity for some scuffling players to get back on track.
Jan. 10: at St. Louis – Nothing has gone right for the Blues this season. They were a realistic pick to do some damage in the playoffs but instead, they’re near the basement of the conference. Despite a roster on paper that has plenty of capable scoring threats, they just can’t score with any sort of consistency. Jake Allen has performed a little better as of late between the pipes, posting a 2.57 GAA over his last eight appearances.
Jan. 12: vs Colorado – The book is out on the Avalanche at this point. They are for the most part a one-line team but that one line is extremely talented (arguably the best in the league). If the Habs can shut them down, they’ll have a good chance to win this one even though the Avs are ahead of them in the standings. If MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Landeskog get going though, it could be a long night.
The news that Charles Hudon is open to a change of scenery if he can’t get playing time in Montreal (via Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic) isn’t a big shocker. This is a player that just last season put up a respectable 30 points in 72 games so even though this season hasn’t gone well, there should be a team or two that’s interested in him.
The question at this point is two-fold – what is he worth and is it enough for Marc Bergevin to justify moving him? My take at the answer is not much and yes, they should take what they can get. Waiver-blocked players don’t have much in the way of trade value and while he outperformed that designation last year, he hasn’t this season. These players tend to go for late draft picks or fringe players if the team is fortunate enough to get anything in return. It’s clear that he is the 14th forward on the depth chart at the moment (15th if and when Andrew Shaw returns) so it’s not like his value is going to go up in the next six weeks either.
Having said that, even though a minor at best return would be rather disappointing, Bergevin simply needs to take what he can get and move on. If it’s a guy for Laval that can come up in a pinch, so be it. If it’s a late-round pick, think of it as a trade chip that they’ll probably flip for a replacement rental player at the trade deadline when rosters expand. That’s better than nothing and no matter what, we’re a few months away from him leaving for nothing one way or the other.
Yes, Hudon is a restricted free agent this summer but he has salary arbitration rights. A player with a 30-point season under his belt is going to get a decent contract from an arbitrator, one that’s certainly more expensive than what the Habs will want to pay to a fringe player. That’s why if he’s still on the roster in June, he won’t be getting a qualifying offer. (It’s the same logic that they applied when they let Daniel Carr go last offseason except Carr only had an extrapolated 30-point campaign, not an actual one.) That means they’re faced with a subpar return now or nothing in a few months. They’ve given up enough of their depth for free so this time, Bergevin needs to cut his losses, take the proverbial bag of pucks if that’s what it comes to, and move on.