After being off for more than a week due to NHL COVID-19 protocols, the Habs returned to the ice and while the week ended on a sour note, it was still a productive one as they picked up four of a possible six points.
The Week That Was
Mar. 30: Canadiens 4, Oilers 0 – While Edmonton was on a back-to-back, there were some concerns about Montreal being rusty after being off for so long. That lasted about as long as it has taken you to read this far. The Habs scored on the opening shift, scored three in the first period while hitting multiple posts, and basically overran the Oilers from start to finish. Suffice it to say, there was no rust.
Apr. 1: Canadiens 4, Senators 1 – With Eric Staal debuting soon and Joel Armia’s anticipated return, the depth players are on notice that their spots could be in jeopardy. They responded quite well. Artturi Lehkonen scored against Edmonton and in this game, Paul Byron got on the board while Jake Evans had his first career multi-point game. Jake Allen lost his bid for a shutout with less than two minutes left in the third but had a solid outing in his first game in nearly two weeks.
Apr. 3: Senators 6, Canadiens 3 – This time, it was Ottawa who struck early as Brady Tkachuk opened the scoring less than a minute in. Tyler Toffoli returned to the lineup and made an immediate impact with a goal while Josh Anderson picked up a pair but while Montreal was able to tie it up twice, they couldn’t get the elusive go-ahead goal and as the game progressed, the Senators started to pull away.
Goals: Tyler Toffoli (19)
Assists: Jonathan Drouin (19)
Points: Tyler Toffoli (28)
+/-: Joel Edmundson (+30)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (44)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (105)
News And Notes
– Jesperi Kotkaniemi cleared COVID-19 protocols and rejoined the team which left Joel Armia as the player that tested positive. Once he clears the two-week mark, he could be allowed to start skating again although he may need a few practices under his belt before he’s cleared to play.
– The Habs took advantage of special COVID-19 cap-exempt recalls to get Jake Evans and Michael Frolik on the roster without a cap penalty. With Tyler Toffoli returning from injury, they lost one of those recalls and with Eric Staal expected to play Monday, they will lose the second one.
– Joel Edmundson’s career high in plus/minus is +11, set in his second NHL season with St. Louis in 2016-17 with a +11 in 69 games. This season, Edmundson is up to +30 in just 34 contests. I know it’s not the best of stats but that is still an impressive mark. Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, and Carter Verhaeghe are all tied for second heading into Sunday’s games at +21.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Perry – Suzuki – Anderson
Drouin – Kotkaniemi – Toffoli
Byron – Evans- Lehkonen
Edmundson – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Mete – Romanov
The Week Ahead
Apr. 5: vs Edmonton – The Oilers had one of their worst games of the year against the Habs last week and will get a chance at some relatively quick revenge. This time, they won’t be playing a back-to-back so Mike Smith is almost certain to get the nod and he had a 38-save shutout against them in his only appearance against the Canadiens this season. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to carry the majority of the workload offensively but Montreal has kept them relatively quiet so far.
Apr. 7: at Toronto – The Maple Leafs are currently without Frederik Andersen although Jack Campbell has done well in his absence to help stabilize them between the pipes. Toronto’s power play has been lethal against Montreal this season but they’re in an 0/26 drought heading into Sunday’s game in Calgary. Former Hab Alex Galchenyuk has fared relatively well with the Leafs with three assists in seven games spent primarily on their second line.
Apr. 8/10: vs Winnipeg – This has been an intriguing series between the two teams so far as they’ve alternated strong games with so-so ones and it’s quite possible that this continues here. The defence for the Jets has been a weak spot all season and took another hit with Nathan Beaulieu undergoing shoulder surgery to end his season. Pierre-Luc Dubois hasn’t been as quiet as Patrik Laine has with Columbus but with six goals and eight assists in 23 games in Winnipeg, he hasn’t found his footing just yet either. Kyle Connor is averaging a goal per game against the Habs so far and will undoubtedly be a handful again.
When the Habs acquired Jake Allen, it was certainly understandable to question why pairing one of the most expensive backup goalies in the league with the most expensive starter made sense. But right now, it certainly seems as if that luxury is going to be huge down the stretch. Yes, there are ‘only’ five back-to-back sets over these last six weeks but the sheer volume of games is going to require him being called upon a few more times than that.
Sure, Montreal is in pretty good shape in the playoff race right now but imagine if it was Charlie Lindgren or this year’s version of Keith Kinkaid between the pipes? For starters, they’d be down a few points in the standings even if you assume that the difference in salary between Allen and a cheap replacement went towards another roster player. Then, the Canadiens would be facing this stretch where they’d have to over-rely on Price and even if they made the postseason, he’d basically be worn out.
I’m not giving Marc Bergevin credit for predicting that there would be a shortened condensed season that would be further condensed by an unplanned week-plus pause. No one can predict that well. But he identified that Allen would be a necessary and needed luxury for this season. Right now, that looks to be a pretty wise decision.