While the week ended on a bit of a down (and confusing) note, it was still a strong showing for the Habs as they picked up five of a possible six points.
The Week That Was
Nov. 12: Canadiens 3, Blue Jackets 2 (SO) – The Habs came out slow for this one and were fortunate to only be down one heading into the third. Brendan Gallagher scored a soft goal to tie it up before a poor defensive decision allowed Zach Werenski to give Columbus the lead with less than two minutes to go. However, Tatar made up for his mistake by scoring the equalizer off a great pass from Nick Suzuki before Jonathan Drouin picked up the winner in the shootout.
Nov. 15: Canadiens 5, Capitals 2 – This was another sluggish start as Washington was all over Montreal in the opening minutes but Carey Price was able to hold them at bay and eventually, the Canadiens took over. They scored four goals in the second period and Tatar put forth a four-point night to take over the team lead in scoring.
Nov. 16: Devils 4, Canadiens 3 (OT) – Let’s overlook the first two periods which saw Cale Fleury score his first career goal and the Habs allow a last-minute goal both times. The final 20 minutes was bizarre. A total of nine penalties were called in the third after only two were called in the opening 40 minutes in a game that didn’t look like it needed a lot called. Phillip Danault had a last-minute goal taken off the board when it was ruled he kicked it in that was later clarified to say it was directed in by something other than his stick. They argued that a New Jersey defender covered the puck in the crease which is a penalty shot but it wasn’t caught live and couldn’t be assessed in review. To make things worse, Danault took the early penalty in overtime that eventually saw Kyle Palmieri pick up the winner on the power play.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (9)
Assists: Tomas Tatar (13)
Points: Tomas Tatar (20)
+/-: Danault/Mete (+9)
PIMS: Tomas Tatar (20)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (70)
News And Notes
– Jonathan Drouin was placed on IR on Saturday due to an upper-body injury sustained late in Friday’s victory over Washington. Paul Byron is also dealing with what’s believed to be a lower-body issue. As a result, Charles Hudon was recalled to play Saturday, was returned to Laval after the game, and then recalled again on Sunday.
– Late goals have been a significant problem for the Habs this season. They’ve now allowed a goal in the last minute of a period 11 times already (in just 20 games). They’re also a team with a winning record so it’s not as if empty-netters are artificially inflating that number either.
– If it feels like Ben Chiarot is shooting a lot, he is. He’s averaging 4.05 shot attempts per game which is actually more than players like Max Domi and Tomas Tatar. For reference, over his last four seasons in Winnipeg (the ones where he was a full-time NHLer), Chiarot averaged 2.39 shot attempts per contest.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Domi – Suzuki – Armia
Lehkonen – Kotkaniemi – Weal
Hudon – Thompson – Cousins
Chiarot – Weber
Mete – Petry
Kulak – Fleury
The Week Ahead
Nov. 19: at Columbus – After putting forth a so-so outing last week, the Habs will get to try their hands with the Blue Jackets again. They’ll avoid facing Nick Foligno again as he’ll be serving the final game of his three-game suspension. Expect a tight-checking affair at the very least.
Nov. 20: vs Ottawa – The Senators have held their own for the most part this season and aren’t the complete bottom-feeders many expected them to be. Jean-Gabriel Pageau (who has more points against Montreal than any other team) already has 11 goals on the year and leads the league in plus/minus while Vladislav Namestnikov has fit in nicely since coming over in an early-season trade from the Rangers.
Nov. 23: vs NY Rangers – Speaking of the Rangers, they’ve struggled in the early going despite Artemi Panarin lighting it up early. Their top centre (Mika Zibanejad) has been out since late-October with what was initially believed to be a day-to-day issue and all eyes are on expected trade candidate Chris Kreider. Kaapo Kakko, the number two pick in June, already has six goals but has struggled a bit as he transitions to the NHL for the first time.
While the slate of above games doesn’t exactly strike fear, it should when it comes to Montreal. With due respect to those teams, this is one of the easier weeks for the Habs on the schedule in terms of the level of competition. It’s a real opportunity for the Canadiens to give themselves a small cushion in the standings which is particularly important with the annual extra-long Christmas road trip on the horizon (which sees them go nearly three weeks without a home game so that Evenko can cram the Bell Centre with some other events). Suffice it to say, they need these points.
Having said that, there should be a level of trepidation heading into the week. The Habs have demonstrated this season that they have a lack of urgency when it comes to facing non-playoff opponents; considering how they’ve fared against top competition, it’s fair to say that their inability to get these games against weaker teams has kept them from contending for the top spot in the league through the first quarter of the season. Whatever they do to get ready to go against playoff teams, they need to figure out how to do it for non-playoff squads or this could be a very disappointing week on the horizon.