Poor starts were costly for the Habs as they were only able to pick up two of four wins and have seen their breathing room on a playoff spot evaporate as a result.
The Week That Was
Feb. 25: Devils 2, Canadiens 1 – For some reason, the Habs looked completely disinterested for the first half of the game and as a result, they were down 2-0 at the halfway point of the game before they woke up and dominated the rest of the way. Unfortunately for Montreal, Cory Schneider is a lot better now than he was early on in the year and he was the difference maker for the Devils.
Feb. 26: Canadiens 8, Red Wings 1 – Jimmy Howard has not played well lately and Montreal took advantage as they scored early and often. Andrew Shaw had his first career hat trick while his whole line combined for a total of a dozen points.
Mar. 1: Canadiens 4, Rangers 2 – Again, the Canadiens were out of it at the start but Price was able to limit the damage to one before Montreal decided it was time to play. Joel Armia was dominant in the second half of the game as he picked up his first career hat trick in a winning effort.
Mar. 2: Penguins 5, Canadiens 1 – For the third time in a week, the Habs were asleep at the switch in the opening minutes of the game. Unlike the Devils and Rangers, Pittsburgh is a pretty good team and they took advantage, scoring three quick ones on Price which pretty much had Montreal out of it before they woke up. Yes, they were the better team after the opening ten minutes but by then, the damage was done.
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (29)
Assists: Max Domi (37)
Points: Max Domi (59)
+/-: Phillip Danault (+18)
PIMS: Max Domi (78)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (242)
News And Notes
– The Habs made two moves on deadline day. First, they recalled Dale Weise from the minors before 3 PM which makes him ineligible to return to Laval this season. Second, they added Jordan Weal from Arizona for Michael Chaput. Surprisingly, Claude Julien has opted to make him a healthy scratch in three straight games.
– Before Andrew Shaw and Joel Armia had hat tricks in consecutive games, the last time that it had happened in Montreal was back in late December of 2008 when Andrei Kostitsyn and Maxim Lapierre pulled it off. For anyone wondering, they’re both still playing – Kostitsyn is with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL while Lapierre is with HC Lugano of the Swiss NLA.
– While it took more than a week for Montreal’s post-deadline ‘paper transactions’ to be listed by the AHL, it doesn’t appear as if Victor Mete or Jesperi Kotkaniemi were sent down and then recalled after the deadline. That means that the Canadiens will have all four of their non-emergency recalls at their disposal.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Domi – Shaw
Byron – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Lehkonen – Thompson – Weise
Mete – Weber
Benn – Petry
Kulak – Folin
The Week Ahead
Mar. 5: at Los Angeles – The California trip is upon us and while history would suggest that this is a near-guaranteed losing streak, things open up with a winnable game against the Kings. They’ve struggled considerably scoring goals as they rank 30th in the league in that department. Jeff Carter snapped a one-month pointless streak last game while Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown are the only ones who have lived up to expectations offensively so far.
Mar. 7: at San Jose – After facing a team that can’t score, the Habs get the Sharks who have had no issues scoring as they feature one of the deepest attacks in the league, one that was bolstered at the deadline with the addition of Gustav Nyquist. Somewhat surprisingly, it’s Brent Burns who leads the way in terms of points while their other key acquisition this year, Erik Karlsson, has been picking up plenty of assists but still just has three goals. He’s also dealing with a groin issue and may not be available to play this one.
Mar. 8: at Anaheim – Their massive collapse has completely taken them out of the playoff picture but they have played a bit better since GM Bob Murray stepped behind the bench. They are dead last in the league in scoring but John Gibson is more than capable of stealing a game on his own. That said, this should be classified as a must-win for the Habs.
Communication is crucial throughout an organization, especially between the coach and general manager. I have to think that the communication was lacking when it came to the backup goalie situation. Marc Bergevin publicly expressed his confidence in Antti Niemi following the trade deadline while Claude Julien publicly expressed his lack of confidence in Niemi by sitting him in two back-to-backs in the same week. Carey Price cannot play every game the rest of the way, not if they want to have him in reasonable shape for the postseason (if they can make it there). There were rental goalies available and considering what Keith Kinkaid went for, the asking price for a number two upgrade would have been extremely low. If Julien had no real plans to use Niemi the rest of the way (aside from perhaps one of the games on the upcoming trip), that needed to be communicated to Bergevin. And if it was and the GM ignored it anyway, then that’s not good either. It’s only the backup goalie but this needed to be handled better.