The week got off to a great start for the Habs who did the unthinkable by winning a game in overtime. Unfortunately, things went off the rails from there as they dropped three straight to reach the trade deadline on a losing note.
The Week That Was
Apr. 5: Canadiens 3, Oilers 2 (OT) – The Habs were bit not once but twice by last-minute goals as tallies at the end of the first two periods gave Edmonton a two-goal lead heading to the third. However, Josh Anderson and Tomas Tatar erased that fairly quickly in the third and the game went to overtime. Montreal was actually decent at points in the extra session (though how they’re playing keep-away leaves a lot to be desired) before Eric Staal made a great first impression, notching the winner to give the Canadiens an honest to goodness three-on-three victory.
Apr. 7: Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2 – Every so often, a team will score on its first shot of the game. It’s a lot rarer when both teams do it but that’s what happened with Auston Matthews and Corey Perry doing that. Unfortunately, things went the wrong way in the third with a bad deflection leading to Toronto’s second goal from T.J. Brodie before Zach Hyman doubled the lead minutes later. Perry added his second late to make it interesting but that’s as close as Montreal got.
Apr. 8: Jets 4, Canadiens 2 – Jake Allen got back-to-back starts for the first time with Montreal, a decision that Dominique Ducharme might want a mulligan on. Allen wasn’t sharp in the opening 20 minutes, allowing three goals which had the Habs down despite a pretty good start to the game overall. Paul Byron got the Habs within one in the second but they couldn’t get the equalizer; Andrew Copp picked up the empty-netter to seal the deal.
Apr. 10: Jets 5, Canadiens 0 – Montreal did well in the first ten minutes of the game, getting a couple of chances and holding Winnipeg without a shot. It went completely downhill from there. They allowed two goals late in the second and folded like a cheap tent from there. The Jets picked up their first ever shutout in Montreal and quite frankly, didn’t have to work that hard to get it.
Goals: Tyler Toffoli (19)
Assists: Jonathan Drouin (19)
Points: Tyler Toffoli (30)
+/-: Joel Edmundson (+28)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (44)
Shots: Tyler Toffoli (110)
News And Notes
– The Habs were busy on the waiver wire over the last few days with Paul Byron being waived (and clearing) for the third time. Victor Mete was also waived on Sunday with his fate being learned on Monday.
– Carey Price didn’t play the last three games after tweaking a lingering lower-body injury against Edmonton. He’s expected to resume skating in the coming days. Cayden Primeau will serve as Jake Allen’s backup in the meantime.
– Joel Armia has started skating and Dominique Ducharme indicated that he could play Wednesday against Calgary. He will remain on the COVID Protocol Related Absences List until he is given the green light to play, not just practice.
– With Jon Merrill being unavailable this coming week due to quarantine protocols, Xavier Ouellet was recalled to the taxi squad.
Last Game’s Lines:
Perry – Suzuki – Toffoli
Drouin – Staal – Anderson
Tatar – Danault – Kotkaniemi
Byron – Evans – Lehkonen
Edmundson – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Romanov – Leskinen
The Week Ahead
Apr. 12: vs Toronto – With Frederik Andersen being moved to LTIR, this will be a battle of the backups once again. Jack Campbell has yet to lose this season, going 11-0 to set a league record for most straight wins to start a season. Their recent power play woes have continued but with how potent they can be and Montreal’s inconsistency shorthanded, that will definitely be an element to watch for again.
Apr. 14, 16: vs Calgary – The Flames are the other North Division team that changed coaches midseason and the results have basically been the same, much like Montreal. This pair of games could go a long way towards either solidifying Montreal’s playoff spot or putting Calgary right back in it. The Habs are six points up with three games in hand but these are the first of five head-to-head games in less than two weeks.
Apr. 17: vs Ottawa – The Sens are expected to have Matt Murray back by this point which is notable because the only team he plays well against this season is Montreal. Murray has a .928 SV% against the Habs and a .866 mark against every other Canadian team. Ottawa should also have some new rookies in for this one in Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto, the latter being a finalist in the Hobey Baker Award balloting that Cole Caufield won.
One of the common sentiments being expressed after Sunday’s acquisition of Jon Merrill was the need for a puck-moving defenceman. And while I understand the desire, I think there’s something being overlooked in that request. The player wouldn’t be brought in to give them another one to have in the lineup with Kulak but rather to replace Kulak altogether.
While the analytics say he’s someone that makes his partners better, it’s clear the coaching staff doesn’t feel the same way. So with that important element in mind, let’s assess the depth chart.
Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, and Joel Edmundson aren’t getting sat down. Ben Chiarot isn’t either when he returns. Alexander Romanov could get a game here and there but he’s pretty much entrenched as well. That leaves one spot open. Right now, it’s between Kulak and Merrill and with how the team feels about Kulak, I’m inclined to say that Merrill is the favourite for the sixth spot, especially with Dominique Ducharme wanting Romanov to play on the left; Merrill spent a lot of time on the right with Detroit. But if you’re wanting another blueliner brought in, it’s not to help Kulak. Instead, it’s to staple him to the press box. Be careful what you wish for.