After a brutal road trip, home ice proved to be just what Laval needed as they picked up five of six points at home to gain some ground in the playoff chase though the injury bug struck as well.
The Week That Was
Feb. 19: Manitoba 5, Laval 4 (SO) – Keith Kinkaid’s struggles continued as he allowed two goals in the opening period and was getting Bronx cheers from the hometown crowd by the end of it. The Rocket bounced back with three straight in the second and had a one-goal lead with just over a minute to go…and blew it which is something they’re starting to resemble Montreal at doing. Laval killed an early OT penalty but there was no scoring in the extra frame and Seth Griffith had the only goal in the shootout.
Feb. 21: Laval 4, Manitoba 1 – The rematch was a lot better for the home side. Laval was stronger defensively and Cayden Primeau was sharp in goal. Laurent Dauphin scored a key shorthanded marker in the second period (his first in nearly a month) and they didn’t look back from there. Former Hab Ryan White was ejected for boarding early in the second period but the Rocket didn’t capitalize on the five-minute power play.
Feb. 22: Laval 2, Toronto 1 – Yannick Veilleux was never a big scorer at the AHL level including two years with Montreal’s farm teams. He was brought in to be a depth player but he has scored some crucial goals including both tallies in this one to give the Rocket a crucial win over one of the teams they’re battling for a playoff spot. Primeau got the nod in goal once again, a decision that proved to be a wise one by Joel Bouchard and the coaching staff.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
News And Notes
– Antoine Waked received a one-game suspension for his hit to the head in the first period against the Marlies in Saturday.
– Joseph Blandisi’s debut with Laval was short-lived as he was injured in the opening period on Friday and is expected to be out for several weeks.
– As a result of their back end getting depleted (with Xavier Ouellet and Karl Alzner in Montreal) plus Evan McEneny getting injured on Friday (joining Otto Leskinen and Noah Juulsen on the shelf), Laval signed blueliner Justin Woods to a PTO. Earlier in the week, McGill blueliner Nathanael Halbert was also signed to a PTO deal.
– Alzner was briefly returned to Laval and then recalled after the trade deadline. Montreal’s injury situation should qualify that as emergency status which shouldn’t count against the limit of four recalls. Jake Evans was also recalled and will count against that limit. For anyone wondering, Nick Suzuki was not papered down and recalled.
– With Charlie Lindgren and Dale Weise not being waived and sent down by the deadline, they are no longer AHL-eligible (aside from a conditioning stint) which means they’re up with Montreal for the rest of the season.
Last Game’s Lines:
Hudon – Kotkaniemi – Evans
Dauphin – Poehling – Lynch
Veilleux – Vejdemo – Alain
Lucchini – Peca – Waked
Olofsson – Brook
Halbert – Lamarche
Culkin – Fleury
The Week Ahead
Feb. 26: at Belleville – I won’t go into too much detail on this one since chances are that the game will be already played by the time you read this. The Senators sit atop the Eastern Conference and were bolstered recently by the return of some key youngsters as Ottawa opted to bring in Matthew Peca to allow more AHL time for their prospects. (What a novel idea…)
Feb. 28: at Rochester – The Amerks don’t score often but they’re the stingiest team in the division defensively which has them sitting comfortably in second place. While they’re missing Jonas Johansson between the pipes while he’s up on recall in Buffalo, they still have Andrew Hammond in the fold and top prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is carving out a large share of playing time already.
Feb. 29: at Utica – Technically, Laval is only four points behind the Comets although Utica has two games in hand. That makes this game particularly important as if the third seed that Vancouver’s farm team holds becomes up for grabs, it makes Laval’s playoff chase a little more realistic. It’s amazing how quickly depth can be whittled away. Earlier this month, veteran Richard Bachman was loaned to Sweden to get some playing time with Michael DiPietro and Zane McIntyre healthy. McIntyre was dealt at the deadline to get an extra NHL goalie so all of a sudden, they went from three good goalies to one in a hurry.
With Matthew Peca getting dealt to Ottawa, the exodus of the supposedly moody veterans is now complete. Yes, three players (Phil Varone and Riley Barber being the others) who never had any attitude issues before, all suddenly allegedly decided to start causing a problem and mailing it in. At least that’s the public spin on the matter. (I suspect it’s more a case of they grew tired of Joel Bouchard’s coaching style and the bench boss wasn’t willing to change things up and as a result, the talent level is much worse than it was a week ago with all due respect to the players that were brought in.)
GM Marc Bergevin stated that he tried to help Laval at his post-deadline presser but considering they had ample opportunity to add depth pieces for the Rocket (or even acquire a filler piece for the Habs to lessen the need to call someone up), I’m not sure how much I’m believing that. Instead, the only help he gave was to his coach by getting rid of some players that he didn’t want around anymore.
To a degree, good for Bergevin for sticking by his coach. You want that level of trust between the farm club and its parent team and while I disagree with the end result, I can appreciate Bergevin respecting the wishes of his AHL coach. However, Bouchard has painted a bullseye on himself. He wanted a younger team with less proven (veteran) talent and that’s what he now has. The requirement for results (such as a playoff berth) are now much higher in my opinion. He thinks that a full team buying into his system with less lone wolves will be better in the long run. The time has come for him to prove that’s the case and there’s no better time than the present.