The Habs were finally able to snap their losing streak this past week while picking up a pair of victories against New York teams. All has not been fixed but it’s at least a start.
The Week That Was
Dec. 3: Canadiens 4, Islanders 2 – Late goals have been a killer for Montreal this season but this time, it worked to their advantage as a last second goal in the first by Phillip Danault opened up the scoring to give them a bit of confidence. They actually got it to 3-0 before New York scored a pair to make it closer than it needed to be but Shea Weber added the empty-netter to clinch the victory.
Dec. 5: Avalanche 3, Canadiens 2 – Cayden Primeau’s NHL debut didn’t go swimmingly to start as both Colorado goals in the first period were ones that would qualify as bad ones to allow. However, he settled down nicely after that and kept the Habs in it long enough to make it close. Pavel Francouz had a strong showing in the third period, stopping quite a few good chances from Montreal to secure the victory.
Dec. 6: Canadiens 2, Rangers 1 – The Habs have played in several games that some would call high event outings. This was not one of those. Quality chances were few and far between for both sides which for Montreal has to be a positive given their defensive play as of late. This one looked like it was heading for overtime but Nate Thompson scored the winner with just over a minute to go.
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (13)
Assists: Danault/Tatar (16)
Points: Tomas Tatar (26)
+/-: Shea Weber (+9)
PIMS: Tomas Tatar (22)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (115)
News And Notes
– Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s nightmare sophomore season continues as he’s now dealing with a concussion from a hit by Colorado’s Nikita Zadorov early in Thursday’s loss. There’s no word on how long he’ll be out.
– One positive on the injury front is that Paul Byron has resumed skating on his own, suggesting that he shouldn’t be too far away from a return.
– Ben Chiarot’s streak of three straight games with a new career high in ice time was snapped against Colorado when he ‘only’ played 28:54. His season average is up over 23 minutes a night, nearly seven minutes per game more than his average with Winnipeg over parts of six seasons.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Domi – Armia
Cousins – Suzuki – Weal
Peca – Thompson – Hudon
Chiarot – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Leskinen – Fleury
The Week Ahead
Dec. 10: at Pittsburgh – The Penguins have been hit extremely hard by the injury bug all season long and are currently without Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Bjugstad, and Brian Dumoulin. Despite that, they’re still one of the top scoring teams in the league (despite only two goals from Alex Galchenyuk) and are getting the job done at the defensive end as well. Tristan Jarry is making a strong push for the starting role and leads the league in save percentage at .943 and GAA at 1.81.
Dec. 11: vs Ottawa – The Senators are near the basement of the East as expected but they’ve been a competitive team most nights. Jean-Gabriel Pageau continues to score at a career-best rate and he’ll likely be good for at least one goal the way he plays against Montreal. Craig Anderson was injured in their game on Saturday so it will likely be Anders Nilsson getting the start.
Dec. 14: vs Detroit – This is Montreal’s final home game of 2019 before they embark on a three-week road trip. The Red Wings have been absolutely abysmal this season and have currently lost 11 straight games; they’ve only won four since beating the Habs back on October 10th (a span of 26 games). Needless to say, this is a must-win for the Canadiens knowing they’re heading to Western Canada (where they often struggle) afterwards.
While the recent recalls of Gustav Olofsson (since demoted) and Otto Leskinen are serving as tryouts to see if they could be part of the defensive solution in Montreal, those moves are creating an even bigger opportunity for Brett Kulak. Instead of being on the third pairing or in the press box, the presence of Olofsson/Leskinen has forced Claude Julien to give Kulak an extended look on the second pairing by default. There’s no security blanket behind him and Ben Chiarot can only play 30 minutes a night once in a while.
Kulak has responded by putting up some of his better performances of the season as of late. He looks a little more confident in terms of joining the rush and it seems like the longer leash has taken some of the pressure off of him. Regardless of whether or not Leskinen does enough to show he’s worthy of a regular role (something that isn’t going to happen), if Kulak starts to play more like last year’s version, that’s going to be a big improvement for Montreal’s back end and potentially allow for Victor Mete to be on the third pairing when he returns. It’s never fair to say an injury winds up being a blessing in disguise but if Kulak keeps this up, they’ll certainly have made the most of it.