The road was not kind to the Habs last week as they dropped all three games and as a result, they’ve basically blown their cushion on Carolina for a playoff spot.
The Week That Was
Feb. 14: Predators 3, Canadiens 1 – Nashville was all over Montreal in the first period but couldn’t score. The Habs then were all over Nashville in the second but couldn’t score (but Nashville did). Tomas Tatar got the equalizer in the third but the tie was short-lived as barely three minutes later, Brian Boyle’s first goal in a Predators uniform proved to be the winner.
Feb. 16: Lightning 3, Canadiens 0 – Montreal held their own through 40 minutes and actually scored in the second period before the Lightning correctly challenged for offside. That wound up killing the Habs as they were completely listless the rest of the way.
Feb. 17: Panthers 6, Canadiens 3 – Antti Niemi had some success against Florida earlier this season having beat them twice. He couldn’t make it three in a row. Instead, he coughed up three quick ones and got the hook before the end of the first period. Montreal eventually tied it in the second when Max Domi picked up his second of the game but as soon as they did that, they completely let up and were dominated the rest of the way.
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (23)
Assists: Max Domi (32)
Points: Max Domi (51)
+/-: Victor Mete (+16)
PIMS: Max Domi (71)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (212)
News And Notes
– The Habs continued their fourth line tinkering with the acquisition of centre Nate Thompson from Los Angeles for what amounts to a small slide from the back of the fourth round to the fifth round. The 34-year-old has a $1.65 million cap hit and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season but he should help bolster Montreal’s penalty kill and take some pressure off Phillip Danault at the faceoff dot.
– With Montreal carrying a full roster, they needed to send someone down to make room for Thompson. That wound up being Michael Chaput who cleared waivers and returned to Laval.
– The Habs may soon have another decision to make as Paul Byron (arm) could return this week. In the short-term, Dale Weise could be sent back to Laval and then recalled on Monday when the roster limits expire.
Last Game’s Lines:
Drouin – Danault – Gallagher
Tatar – Domi – Shaw
Lehkonen – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Hudon – Thompson – Weise
Mete – Weber
Reilly – Petry
Kulak – Benn
The Week Ahead
Feb. 19: vs Columbus – Even though this isn’t a divisional game, this one will mean a lot with Columbus being one of the bubble teams in the Metropolitan that could be battling them for a Wild Card spot. There has been plenty of talk with the Blue Jackets as of late with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky in trade talks but both will likely be in this one as it’s a bit early to start sitting players before the deadline.
Feb. 21: vs Philadelphia – The Flyers have been on a huge roll as of late with Carter Hart giving them something resembling stability between the pipes. Even so, they’re expected to be sellers by next week’s deadline and Wayne Simmonds is one that’s expected to be on the move. Jakub Voracek has been quite productive as of late while Claude Giroux is very quietly over the point per game mark again this season.
Feb. 23: at Toronto – The Habs held their own against Toronto two weeks ago but came up short in overtime. The Maple Leafs are the second-highest scoring team in the East and have a well-balanced attack that Montreal has had some challenges covering at times. While it’s a real long shot, if the Canadiens have any hopes of catching Toronto for a top-three spot in the Atlantic, they will need to get this one in regulation.
As I’ve done with the last Rocket Weekly, I’m going to use this spot over the next couple of weeks to highlight a few players that have a chance at being dealt rather than covering the whole team. Let’s start with the goalies and defencemen.
Jordie Benn: 30% – This one is really tough to handicap. It’s tough to move someone that’s a regular in the lineup when you’re fighting for a playoff spot but at the same time, they have Christian Folin that should be able to step in and it’s not likely that Benn will be back next season. A scenario that sees Benn go for a draft pick and then the pick gets flipped for another defender is probably also on the table.
Mike Reilly: 20% – Reilly has had his best NHL season and has worked his way into a regular role. But doesn’t it feel like his hold on a spot is rather tenuous? They need a left-shot upgrade and Victor Mete isn’t coming out of the lineup. Brett Kulak is a better option for a third pairing player so if they do make a move for a top-four defender, Reilly’s likely the one losing his spot and could very well be part of the return.
Christian Folin: 20% – It’s notable that the Habs required Philadelphia to retain to bring Folin down to the league minimum. They had more than enough cap room to take on his full $800,000 deal so was the move done to give them some flexibility to trade him? It’s telling that he hasn’t played yet so perhaps the coaching staff hasn’t liked what they’ve seen in practice. Perhaps they move Folin for a more expensive reserve defender and add a small asset in the process.
Antti Niemi: 5% – No one is taking him as a potential upgrade but if a team in need of cap room decides to go for a cheaper backup to create that space, the Habs are the type of team that could take the other goalie on and flip Niemi the other way to give the other team some depth.
Beyond this group, the other players are either close to untouchable or in the case of Kulak, it’s unlikely that a team will view him as a key part of a trade and considering he has played himself into a regular spot, I don’t think they’re particularly inclined to move him anyway.