Despite the frustration surrounding Montreal’s performance in overtime over the past few games, it was a successful week in the standings for the Habs as they picked up six of a possible eight points to give themselves a slightly larger cushion in the playoff race.
The Week That Was
Mar. 15: Canadiens 4, Jets 2 – The Habs are built to be a team that can quickly counter-attack and capitalize on turnovers more than a squad that can generate a sustained attack. That has hurt them at times this season but it helped in this game as Montreal took advantage of some subpar defensive effort from Winnipeg. Tyler Toffoli’s goal in the final minute of the second period gave the Canadiens a much-needed two-goal cushion, one that he restored in the final minute into the empty net.
Mar. 17: Jets 4, Canadiens 3 (OT) – Winnipeg got off to a strong start with a pair in the first but the Habs were able to counter that with two in the third including Toffoli tying it up with less than two minutes to go to give the Habs at least one point. They had the first chance of the extra session when Jeff Petry redirected a Phillip Danault pass for a good opportunity but right after that, Winnipeg came right down and ended on a Nikolaj Ehlers shot.
Mar. 19: Canucks 3, Canadiens 2 (OT) – The power play earned Montreal the single point in this one with both of their goals coming with the man advantage. For the second straight game, the Habs had a late goal in the third period as this time it was Nick Suzuki lighting the lamp. Also for the second straight game, the opposition came down and ended it in transition as J.T. Miller made a move around Tomas Tatar and Nick Suzuki and beat an outstretched Jake Allen.
Mar. 20: Canadiens 5, Canucks 4 (OT) – For a while, this felt like a copy from the night before. Montreal started strong, gave up the lead, and then tied it up. It happened in both the second and third periods, in fact. Brendan Gallagher didn’t wait until the dying minutes to tie it up in regulation though as he tied it up just past the five-minute mark. The Habs survived overtime and got to the shootout where Tomas Tatar picked up the winner in the sixth round, giving the Habs their first extra-time victory of the season and first win in their blue uniforms.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Tyler Toffoli (18)
Assists: Jonathan Drouin (19)
Points: Petry/Toffoli (27)
+/-: Joel Edmundson (+24)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (44)
Shots: Gallagher/Toffoli (96)
News And Notes
– Paul Byron has once again gone through waivers unclaimed which allows him to be shuffled back and forth to the taxi squad once again. At over $9,000 in daily cap savings when they do that, it can add up over time.
– In his midseason news conference, GM Marc Bergevin indicated that he expects Ben Chiarot to be back before the end of the season, suggesting the recovery timeframe should be on the shorter end of the 6-8 weeks that was announced at the time of his surgery. That basically takes LTIR out of the equation unless enough other injuries strike where they need to use it to bring up short-term replacements from the taxi squad.
– Speaking of other injuries, Tyler Toffoli suffered a minor lower-body injury on Friday and didn’t play in Montreal’s victory on Saturday. He’s listed as day-to-day.
– Carey Price’s victory on Saturday was the first game he had a victory with a save percentage below .800 in his career.
Last Game’s Lines:
Drouin – Suzuki – Anderson
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Byron – Evans- Perry
Edmundson – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Mete – Romanov
The Week Ahead
Mar. 22/24/26: vs Edmonton – The Habs will look to make up some ground on the Oilers who sit five points ahead of them for second in the division although Montreal has three games in hand, making this an intriguing set. Mike Smith has taken over the number one role while Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to light it up. Tyson Barrie is starting to have more and more of an impact and is one of the top-scoring defencemen in the league. They don’t have a ton of offence beyond those three but quite frankly, they haven’t needed it lately.
Early in the season, Jake Evans was playing decent minutes. Even if he wasn’t producing, he still had a bit of an impact on the game. But since the coaching change, that playing time has been dropping considerably with a game just over six minutes this week while he’s averaging about two minutes per game less under Dominique Ducharme than Claude Julien. When you have someone that’s still a prospect and waiver-exempt playing that little, it’s completely counterproductive. It’s clear that his usage isn’t changing anytime soon either.
That’s why it’s time to send him to Laval. Not the taxi squad where he can sit; that’s about the only thing that’s worse than what they’re doing now. No, send him to Laval where he can jump onto their front line and get some real minutes and most importantly, a chance to actually do something when he’s on the ice. Right now, it looks like all he’s being asked to do is not screw up. That’s something you can ask a veteran like Michael Frolik to do (or even Laurent Dauphin who is on the taxi squad but has some NHL experience) but Evans is capable of more of that but needs an opportunity that he’s just not getting. If he can’t get that with the Habs, then let him have it with the Rocket while he still can.
With Montreal’s limited salary cap space, they won’t be able to do much at the deadline but the fourth line centre is actually one spot that could be addressed. By sending Evans down now, they can evaluate someone else in that spot (I’d recall Lukas Vejdemo while having one of Dauphin or Frolik cover during the quarantine phase) to see if it can be filled internally. Evans could be the answer next season or even later on this year but right now, giving him this little ice time helps no one. It’s time to give another centre a look which will probably wind up being better for Evans’ development in the long run anyway.