The Habs wrapped up their season-opening six-game road trip with four more games out West and made the most of them as they picked up seven of eight points thanks in large part to their offence which came to life.
The Week That Was
Jan. 18: Canadiens 3, Oilers 1 – After Edmonton struggled defensively in their first meeting, this one was a lot closer at the start with Jake Allen getting tested early in his Montreal debut. However, the momentum really turned late in the second period. Mikko Koskinen had kept it a one-goal game to that point but allowed a Shea Weber goal that was banked off his head from behind the net with just 11 seconds to go with a goalie interference call being overturned on review. That gave the Habs a bit of a cushion and Artturi Lehkonen sealed it with a shorthanded tally in the third.
Jan. 20: Canucks 6, Canadiens 5 (SO) – Special teams played a big role in this one as after the Canadiens were able to shut down Edmonton’s power play, they failed to do so against Vancouver, allowing three power play goals. Montreal trailed on four separate occasions in the game and actually took the lead late in the third period but it was short-lived as the Canucks tied it seconds after before winning the shootout. Tyler Toffoli made a big impact in this one against his former team, notching a hat trick.
Jan. 21: Canadiens 7, Canucks 3 – The penalty trouble for the Habs continued but they managed a pair of shorthanded tallies to make up for it. Toffoli picked up two more goals while Joel Armia had a four-point effort as that trio was Montreal’s best by far. It wasn’t all good news for the Canadiens though as Joel Armia suffered a concussion on a hit from Tyler Myers late in the game. Myers was assessed a match penalty but that was later rescinded by the Department of Player Safety who ruled the hit as clean.
Jan. 23: Canadiens 5, Canucks 2 – The scoreboard doesn’t quite reflect the game – while Montreal was better early on, Vancouver picked up the pace in the second half and came back from a two-goal deficit early in the third period before Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin scored to restore the cushion for the Habs. Corey Perry made his Canadiens debut in this one and had a strong game, scoring a goal and setting up some other good chances.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Tyler Toffoli (5)
Assists: Drouin/Petry (5)
Points: Tyler Toffoli (8)
+/-: Jeff Petry (+9)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (11)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (24)
News And Notes
– With Jeff Petry being held off the scoresheet on Saturday, Nick Suzuki is the lone remaining Hab to record a point in every game.
– Carey Price’s victory on Saturday night was the 350th of his career, making him the fifth-fastest player in NHL history to reach that milestone.
– Jonathan Drouin’s goal on Saturday was his first since October 31, 2019, a stretch of 20 games.
– Alexander Romanov and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were both briefly assigned to the taxi squad and recalled while allowing the Habs to bank a little bit of cap room.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Suzuki – Anderson
Toffoli – Kotkaniemi – Perry
Byron – Evans – Lehkonen
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Kulak – Romanov
The Week Ahead
Jan. 28/30: vs Calgary – Montreal finally gets to hold their home opener and will face a Flames squad that underwent a considerable makeover of their own this past offseason with a new starting goalie and six new skaters including former Hab Nikita Nesterov who is back in the NHL. In the early going this season, their top line seems to be back in form while Jacob Markstrom has been stingy between the pipes.
The Pierre-Luc Dubois drama has come to an end (for now, at least) with him being traded to Winnipeg with Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic coming the other way. By all accounts, the Canadiens were involved in the process until the end. That surprises me, to be honest.
While there’s no denying that he would have been a nice addition, I honestly don’t think the Habs were a great fit in a trade. In Laine, Columbus is getting a legitimate front-line player, albeit one with some baggage of his own. They’re trying to win now and considering the division they’re in, they should be in contention for a playoff spot. Which top liner were the Habs giving up? Guys like Tomas Tatar or Jonathan Drouin weren’t going to be the centrepiece, neither was Phillip Danault as an expiring contract.
They weren’t moving Nick Suzuki and by the end, it didn’t seem like Jesperi Kotkaniemi was even being discussed with any sort of seriousness. That meant they were hoping to contend with what, a package involving maybe Cole Caufield and cap filler? (That cap filler would have needed to be multiple roster players, by the way, not just Paul Byron.) I honestly don’t see how they thought that was going to do it. Or perhaps more specifically, how those in the media reporting on the situation could have felt the Habs were in the mix.
This also isn’t just a situation of the Habs being capped out now but had it been the offseason they could have swung something. Dubois’ trade request was only known publicly for the last month or so but it had been in place before then. GM Marc Bergevin put forth a semi-competitive offer at most for Dubois. While some of you may be lamenting the lost opportunity, I don’t think the Habs are. Otherwise, they’d have been willing to move one of their key young core players to at least intrigue the Blue Jackets. Bergevin is banking on those core youngsters to be the new future of the team though, classifying them as untouchable on multiple occasions. Time will tell whether or not he made the right call. But for now, don’t be disappointed that Montreal didn’t get Dubois; it’s pretty clear they’re not.