The week started off with some promise for the Habs but the enthusiasm quickly cratered after a pair of disappointing losses to teams they’re battling with for a playoff spot over the weekend.
The Week That Was
Dec. 23: Canadiens 6, Jets 2 – Montreal’s top line had been a bit quiet but that changed in a hurry in this game as they combined for Montreal’s first four goals which put them in complete control. They peppered the Jets in shots before letting up a bit in the third period but they still went into the holiday break on a high note.
Dec. 27: Lightning 5, Canadiens 4 – Speaking of peppering with shots, the Habs had the first 18 of the game, earning themselves a 2-0 lead in the process. However, yet another last-minute goal really started to turn the tide and early on in the second, Tampa Bay had the lead. Carey Price had a particularly rough game which was a bit of a surprise considering how well he was playing going into the break.
Dec. 28: Panthers 6, Canadiens 5 – It appears that Montreal forgot to play defence over the course of their three off days. For the second straight game, they looked lost in their defensive zone coverages and they got burned several times as a result. Nick Suzuki had his first career three-point game and isn’t looking out of place on the second line.
Goals: Tomas Tatar (16)
Assists: Phillip Danault (20)
Points: Tomas Tatar (35)
+/-: Shea Weber (+10)
PIMS: Tomas Tatar (28)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (158)
News And Notes
– The Habs got both good news and bad news on the injury front. Victor Mete and Jesperi Kotkaniemi returned from their respective injuries but Joel Armia suffered what looked like a hand/wrist injury in Winnipeg while Paul Byron, who was originally supposed to be back by now, is once again listed as week-to-week.
– Riley Barber’s next game played will be his tenth which means he’ll have to go through waivers in order to return to Laval.
– After going 11 games without a goal, Max Domi has now scored in five straight games.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Domi – Suzuki
Cousins – Kotkaniemi – Weal
Poehling – Thompson – Barber
Chiarot – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Mete – Fleury
The Week Ahead
Dec. 31: at Carolina – The road trip comes to an end with another key game, especially if the Habs wind up having to try to grab a Wild Card spot. The Hurricanes hold the final playoff spot but are struggling defensively a little bit having allowed four or more goals in each of their last four games. Considering how poorly Montreal has been defensively the last two games, this could be another high-scoring affair.
Jan. 2: vs Tampa Bay – Something tells me the Lightning will get off to a better start compared to how they performed early on Saturday. Considering the two teams just met, there isn’t much to really preview here so I’ll instead point out that Mikhail Sergachev is averaging nearly 19 minutes a game this season while chipping in with 19 points in 37 games so far this season.
Jan. 4: vs Pittsburgh – Although the Penguins just got Patric Hornqvist back, they’re still missing several key regulars including Sidney Crosby and Justin Schultz. They’ve had plenty of players step up though. Bryan Rust has gone from a 30-point player to a top liner, Evgeni Malkin has the highest point per game average of his career, and Tristan Jarry went from a third-string goalie to leading the league in GAA and SV%.
When Lukas Vejdemo was recalled, I was happy. He’s earned a chance to play based on his strong performance with Laval. Or so I thought.
Instead, the Habs have decided to bench him for six straight games which is about the dumbest thing they could have done. I get that they needed an extra forward for the road trip. And it’s okay for him to sit a little bit. He could have alternated with Riley Barber, for example as Vejdemo can play the right wing as well. But to sit him for six straight games? What type of message does that send? Good job kid; too bad you’re not good enough to be here? Then why is he up at all? If they just wanted someone to sit as a healthy scratch, why not bring up Dale Weise? It’s not like they couldn’t afford the higher cap hit and with all due respect to Weise, no one would really care if he sat a bunch of games in a row (that was his role down the stretch last year).
Meanwhile, Laval’s lineup is riddled with players on minor league contracts, tryouts, or underachievers and struggling. Vejdemo could be playing a much bigger role down there. Heck, he could be playing period. For a prospect still on his entry-level deal, shouldn’t that be the priority? If they have no intention of playing Vejdemo, it is simply inexcusable that he is still up with the team. I suppose it’s good for him that he gets an NHL paycheque for a couple of weeks but that’s about the only positive I can think of here. It’s time to let common sense prevail. It’s time to let Vejdemo play, period.