Offensive production was hard to come by for the Habs this past week although they were still able to pick up a pair of victories thanks to some strong play between the pipes.
The Week That Was
Jan. 7: Wild 1, Canadiens 0 – Things didn’t get off to a great start for the Habs as Kenny Agostino was ejected on his first shift of the game and that was followed up by Shea Weber taking a puck to the face, ending his night after the first period. Unfortunately, Montreal then decided to give Minnesota plenty of high-quality scoring chances thanks to some horrific giveaways. One of those came off the stick of Jeff Petry in the third and Mikael Granlund took advantage to give the Wild the only goal of the game.
Jan. 8: Canadiens 3, Red Wings 2 – Early on, it looked as if the offensive struggles would continue as Montreal couldn’t get much going in the first period. However, they popped a couple of quick ones to start the second, giving themselves a bit of wiggle room in the process. After making the costly turnover the night before, Petry made up for it as his marker in the third stood as the game-winner.
Jan. 10: Blues 4, Canadiens 1 – This was a game where Montreal simply wasn’t in it. Even in the second period when they had closed the gap to two and were showing some signs of life, they simply weren’t in it. The defence was shaky again as Carey Price faced numerous breakaways and he wasn’t able to stop most of them.
Jan. 12: Canadiens 3, Avalanche 0 – Once again, scoring was at a premium as it was goalless after two. However, Montreal got going in the third with some strong play from their special teams (no, not the power play – that would be asking too much…) as Brett Kulak scored off a won draw to open the scoring and then Jesperi Kotkaniemi snapped his goalless drought two minutes later. Jordie Benn’s offensive run continued with a late empty-netter.
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (15)
Assists: Max Domi (25)
Points: Max Domi (39)
+/-: Phillip Danault (+13)
PIMS: Max Domi (51)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (163)
News And Notes
– In a move that came as a bit of a surprise considering they simply could have sent Karl Alzner down, the Habs waived defenceman David Schlemko and then sent him to Laval when he cleared. He’ll get some time with the Rocket to get back into playing shape and it wouldn’t be shocking if he’s back with the big club in a few weeks (assuming he stays healthy).
– Paul Byron has quieted down offensively as of late. Over the past month, he has just four points in 15 games despite spending a good chunk of time with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin.
– There is still no official word on how long Andrew Shaw will miss but during some interviews last week, GM Marc Bergevin suggested that the team is hopeful that he won’t be out for too much longer.
Last Game’s Lines:
Drouin – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Domi – Armia
Tatar – Kotkaniemi – Byron
Agostino – Chaput – Deslauriers
Mete – Weber
Reilly – Petry
Kulak – Benn
The Week Ahead
Jan. 14: at Boston – The Bruins are now mostly healthy and they are on a strong stretch having won six of their last seven. Tuukka Rask is back at the top of his game and has wrestled back the starting job for the time being while they boast the third-best power play in the league. This won’t be an easy one.
Jan. 15: vs Florida – The Panthers have been one of the biggest disappointments in the league this season. They were expected to be a Wild Card contender but instead sit well back of a playoff spot. (Basically, they are where many thought the Habs would be and vice versa.) Florida is a decent team offensively (even without Vincent Trocheck) but they simply can’t keep the puck out of their own net most nights.
Jan. 18: at Columbus – While Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky have been dominating the headlines as they’re in their final season before unrestricted free agency, the Blue Jackets are quietly one of the top teams in the Metropolitan Division. Cam Atkinson continues to be one of the more under the radar snipers, Pierre-Luc Dubois has improved considerably in his second season, and their defence corps is strong.
Jan. 19: vs Philadelphia – They fired the coach and GM in the hopes that their fortunes would change. It hasn’t happened. The Flyers are dead last in the league and are down their top three goaltenders which has resulted in top prospect Carter Hart getting recalled sooner than they hoped. Claude Giroux continues to be dominant but their supporting cast has been inconsistent, to say the least.
The All-Star Game is still roughly two weeks away but the winning team has already been determined. Congratulations to the Montreal Canadiens as they are the big winners!
With Carey Price (who had no business being named to the game anyway other than to satisfy an unnecessary quota that prevents many deserving players from going) withdrawing from the event, the league had no choice but to put Andrei Vasilevskiy in since Antti Niemi couldn’t realistically even be considered. Shea Weber didn’t win the fan vote (nor should he have) which means the Habs are the lone team that will get to have all of its players resting during the game. Considering they’re going to be in a dogfight for a playoff spot the rest of the way, this is absolutely the best outcome. There’s no risk of injury, no situation where anyone’s going to complain about not getting family time. This is the best case scenario.
(Now, I’d love to know why the scheduler thought it was a great idea to tack on the bye week after the All-Star break, resulting in eight days off before a back-to-back set. That could have been handled better. For anyone wondering when the rest of the Prospect Rankings are coming, we’re saving them for this break in the schedule.)