Despite a growing list of injuries, the Rocket had a strong week, picking up five of a possible six points to move out of the basement in the North Division.
The Week That Was
Jan. 2: Rocket 4, Belleville 2 – After losing a tough one to the Senators the week before, Laval got some revenge to kick off 2019 on a high note. The Rocket led 3-0 just past the midway mark of the second and they were able to hold on from there. Antoine Waked scored his first of the season which proved to be the winner while Hayden Verbeek picked up his first career AHL point on the goal as well.
Jan. 4: Americans 3, Rocket 2 (SO) – Laval has had a run of difficult games lately against teams near the top of the league and this one was another of those with Rochester sitting atop the division. David Sklenicka scored in the dying seconds of the first to open the scoring but Rochester returned the favour in the second as they scored in the final minute to tie the game, a score that held up through overtime before winning the shootout.
Jan. 5: Rocket 2, Americans 1 – Laval’s offence wasn’t able to generate much (they had just 15 shots for the game) but it was enough to pick up the win thanks to another strong showing from PTO netminder Connor LaCouvee. Alexandre Grenier scored the winner in the third, capping off his first multi-goal week of the season.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Byron Froese (11)
Assists: Alex Belzile (20)
Points: Alex Belzile (27)
+/-: Audette/Froese (+7)
PIMS: Michael McCarron (46)
Shots: Alex Belzile (86)
News And Notes
– With Michael McNiven being reassigned from Montreal, Laval opted to send down Etienne Marcoux (who has a full contract for the season) instead of PTO option Connor LaCouvee. Considering how the latter played this week, they clearly made the right choice.
– Michael McCarron and Hunter Shinkaruk are both dealing with undisclosed injuries sustained in practice and neither will make the upcoming road trip. The same is the case for Noah Juulsen’s mystery injury. However, Charlie Lindgren is with the team for their upcoming road trip.
– Considering Laval was down to just 12 healthy forwards (remember this point for later on), they signed winger Alex Kile to a PTO. He has spent most of the season with Maine of the ECHL but has had brief stints with Utica and Hartford this season as well as Rochester in the previous two seasons.
Last Game’s Lines:
Audette – Evans – Froese
Jevpalovs – Vejdemo – Grenier
Belzile – Martineau – Alain
Pezzetta – Verbeek – Waked
Sklenicka – Lernout
Ouellet – Fleury
Plant – Lamarche
The Week Ahead
Jan. 10/12: at Manitoba – The Moose have had some strong years in the past. This is not one of those seasons. They are the lowest scoring team in the league and sit in last place in the Central Division. Their leading point-getter is a familiar face in Logan Shaw, who inked a two-way deal with Winnipeg early on in the season. (Former Hab Ryan White is also on the roster although he’s injured.) They’re missing a couple of key players in winger Mason Appleton and defenceman Sami Niku to recalls but they still have some players of note, particularly Seth Griffith who has been among the top AHL producers in recent years while Eric Comrie sits sixth among qualifying goalies in save percentage (Charlie Lindgren and Michael McNiven are tied for 41st).
I’ve been on the record about how Marc Bergevin needs to do something to help Laval up front. The perfect opportunity presented itself on Sunday when the Kings put Nikita Scherbak on waivers. If the Habs claimed him back and no one else did, they would have been able to send him to the Rocket. It turns out that no one else claimed him. The problem is, neither did the Habs.
Montreal had an opportunity to bring in an above-average AHL player literally for free (they’d have had to pay a waiver fee but they collected it when the Kings took him so they’d just be returning Los Angeles’ money). They’re in a dogfight for a playoff spot and are playing guys who aren’t AHL-calibre and signing ECHL players to fill out their roster. They have plenty of contract space (44/50). Scherbak’s deal is an expiring one so there are no long-term implications to deal with either. And still, Bergevin chose to do nothing. In the past, he has talked about wanting to see Laval be an environment for development but also a playoff team. This was the perfect time to add a player that would have made a notable impact to help this team try to get back into the postseason picture. Even better, it’s one that has some chemistry with some of the players there already, something that isn’t usually the case with midseason acquisitions. Despite all of that, they passed.
In the grand scheme of things, is this really a big deal? Not really. Scherbak’s NHL potential appears to be in serious question now so it’s not as if they’ve passed on a star in the making here. However, as someone who wants to see Montreal’s prospects actually see playoff action one of these years, it’s a little disheartening to see a blind eye turned here. I guess anyone wanting to see Laval make a push can give up any hopes of Bergevin making a trade to help them if a free asset in Scherbak wasn’t deemed worthy of acquiring. Laval has a pop gun offence (and that may be generous) but it looks as if it’s going to have to do as help isn’t going to be coming.