Laval had a bit of a memorable week, one that featured some significant negatives including a painful blown lead and several injuries. Despite it all, they still managed to pick up seven of a possible eight points to extend their lead in the Canadian Division.
The Week That Was
Mar. 23: Rocket 4, Heat 2 – Not surprisingly, the fourth and final matchup of this miniseries was a penalty-filled affair with both teams scoring a pair with the man advantage. The difference for Laval was that they also picked up a pair at even strength from Jesse Ylonen and Jake Lucchini with the latter’s goal – his first of the season – standing as the winner.
Mar. 25: Moose 4, Rocket 3 (SO) – This game was definitely the low point of the week. They lost two key regulars to injury and then blew a two-goal lead with less than a minute left in regulation; the tying goal was with just under two seconds remaining. Nathan Todd had the only goal in the shootout which brought Michael McNiven’s seven-game winning streak (dating back to 2018-19) to an end.
Mar. 26: Rocket 1, Moose 0 – This time, Laval was able to hold the lead and did so for most of the game. Joel Teasdale scored before the three-minute mark of the first and that was all Cayden Primeau needed to pick up his first shutout of the season.
Mar. 28: Rocket 5, Moose 3 – Laval was able to turn the tables from their tough loss. Well, sort of. They once again lost two players to injuries but this time, they made the comeback in the third period. They scored twice in an 11-second span to tie it up with less than six minutes left before Jordan Weal picked up the winner; Joseph Blandisi added an empty-netter to seal it. Hayden Verbeek played in his first game of the season after being a healthy scratch or the designated warm body on Montreal’s taxi squad and picked up the tying goal in the third.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Joseph Blandisi (8)
Assists: Otto Leskinen (12)
Points: Joseph Blandisi (16)
+/-: Otto Leskinen (+12)
PIMS: Alex Belzile (29)
Shots: Otto Leskinen (47)
News And Notes
– Yannick Veilleux sat for the entire week after receiving a four-game suspension for a kneeing incident against Stockton. He is now eligible to return to the lineup.
– Alex Belzile and Lukas Vejdemo were injured in the first game against Manitoba and were ruled out for the rest of the road trip. Jesse Ylonen and Jan Mysak were injured in the last game of the week. Suffice it to say, they’ll be thrilled to get Veilleux back.
– Cole Caufield has been sent to Laval and will be eligible to play once he serves his seven-day quarantine period. To be technical, there is a second week of the quarantine period but he’ll be permitted to practice, travel, and play during that stretch.
– Ryan Poehling has now surpassed his goal and point output from his rookie season. After notching five goals and eight assists in 36 games last year, he has six goals and eight helpers in 19 games this season.
Last Game’s Lines:
Harvey-Pinard – Weal – Ylonen
Blandisi – Poehling – Teasdale
Baddock – Mysak – Lucchini
Pezzetta – Hillis – Verbeek
Schueneman – Leskinen
Bisson – Fleury
Brisebois – Brook
The Week Ahead
Mar. 30: at Manitoba – The four-game set against the Moose comes to an end although Laval will be missing several forwards from what they had at the start of this series. David Gustafsson has had a good showing so far with four points in three games while Kristian Vesalainen has three points in the first three contests after being sent down from Winnipeg to get some playing time.
Apr. 2/4: vs Stockton – A return home should allow Laval to get some reinforcements from Montreal with the Habs set to be at home for most of the next two weeks. While the Rocket picked up the sweep on the road, Stockton has played the rest of the division relatively tough so far with a 9-5 record against other Canadian squads. In terms of goals per game, the Heat (3.33) are just ahead of the Rocket (3.25) to lead the division.
So Cole Caufield is heading to the minors. Since it’s not the NHL, he should tear it up right away, right? I’m not so sure.
There is going to be a bit of rust to work off since he’ll wind up sitting for the better part of two weeks before getting into a game and he’ll be adjusting to a new team and a new league at the same time. That can be tricky to navigate, though hardly impossible to overcome.
I’m also a bit worried about the expectations based on this hope from many fans that he’ll come in and dominate. Caufield isn’t that type of player. He isn’t someone who is going to have the puck on his stick plenty of times and make all sorts of things happen. He’s not a play-driver, he’s a play-finisher and those players aren’t always visible. His shift-to-shift performance isn’t going to be well above and beyond everyone’s else’s. Instead, the hope is that he’ll be able to shoot at a better level than a lot of players.
I’m expecting Caufield to earn a top-six spot quickly and be an effective weapon on the power play. For the first couple of weeks, that will be enough of a task for him. If he does better, great. But if that’s ‘all’ he does, it would be a great first step. Patience will be needed here but he should be worth the wait.