While a playoff spot is still highly unlikely, Laval was able to gain a little bit of ground on the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division.
The Week That Was
Mar. 6: Marlies 4, Rocket 3 (OT) – Things were looking good early on when Daniel Audette opened up the scoring barely a minute in. However, Laval struggled in the second as they allowed a trio of goals before Audette tied it up in the third to send it to overtime. Unfortunately for the Rocket, Charlie Lindgren’s rough night ended early in the extra frame as Rasmus Sandin picked up the winner in the opening minute.
Mar. 8: Marlies 3, Rocket 0 – Laval got a better performance between the pipes as Michael McNiven had a strong game. Toronto’s Michael Hutchinson had an even better one though, stopping all 42 shots he faced to pick up the win in a game that the Rocket deserved a better fate in.
Mar. 9: Rocket 5, Comets 3 – Scoring has been an issue for Laval all season long. As a result, it isn’t often where they’ve had big offensive bursts. They did in the back half of the third period of this one, scoring four times in a little over eight minutes to get the win. Joe Cox picked up his first career AHL goal, one that held up as the game-winner.
Goals: Byron Froese (14) (Even though he was traded a month ago…)
Assists: Alex Belzile (31)
Points: Alex Belzile (44)
+/-: Brett Lernout (+11)
PIMS: Alex Belzile (64)
Shots: Alex Belzile (143)
News And Notes
– With his first 25-game PTO finished (games on the roster, not games played), Alex Kile was given a second one that will carry him through to the end of the season. He has five points in 20 games so far with the Rocket.
– Antoine Waked returned from his upper-body injury while Phelix Martineau was returned to Fort Wayne of the ECHL. Meanwhile, Alex Belzile is dealing with an illness that kept him out of the last two games.
– Connor LaCouvee was recalled from Maine of the ECHL with Charlie Lindgren on his way up to Montreal.
– Xavier Ouellet has tailed off quite a bit offensively in recent weeks. After picking up 19 points in his first 24 games with the team, the captain has been held off the scoresheet in eight straight contests.
Last Game’s Lines:
Cox – Evans – Grenier
Audette – Vejdemo – Alain
Kile – Verbeek – Adams-Moisan
Roy – Pezzetta – Waked
Alzner – Lernout
Ouellet – Fleury
Sklenicka – Lamarche
The Week Ahead
Mar. 13: vs Syracuse – First place in the division is on the line in this one…for one team, at least. The Crunch have been playing high-end hockey after a slow start to their season with former IceCap Eddie Pasquale between the pipes. Syracuse leads the league in scoring and have nine players with double-digit goals already, led by Carter Verhaeghe.
Mar. 15/16: at Belleville – This is not the ideal time to be facing the Baby Sens. They were already on a roll before Ottawa’s trade deadline dealings bolstered their roster with the likes of Vitali Abramov and Erik Brannstrom. Former Hab Mike Condon has been out since November with hip issues and recently suffered a setback in his recovery.
There haven’t been a lot of positives in Laval this season but one area that Joel Bouchard and his coaching staff have quietly shored up is their defence. The Rocket allow the fewest shots on goal per game, checking in at just under 26. For comparison, Carolina has the best rate of NHL teams at 28.3. Part of the improvement can be attributed to having some capable veterans on the farm – Brett Kulak was strong early on while Karl Alzner and Xavier Ouellet certainly help as well. That said, the coaches have done well with rookie Cale Fleury and have gotten pretty good mileage out of Maxim Lamarche as well, someone who’s on a minor league deal. It’s also a sign that the forwards are buying into the new structure and are playing conscientiously on both sides of the rink which is a good sign long-term. While they’re going to fall short of a playoff spot again, this is one element that they’re really improved on this season; if they’re not going to win, at least they’re developing a little bit.