Last week was a critical one for the Habs who had a chance to solidify their spot in the North Division playoffs. It didn’t happen. Instead, Calgary has cut into the game and Montreal is now dealing with several injuries as well.
The Week That Was
Apr. 19: Oilers 4, Canadiens 1 – The Habs have played Edmonton well this season and the Oilers were determined to change that. They came out with plenty of energy and matched Montreal’s physicality though they were trailing 1-0 entering the third after Eric Staal opened the scoring in the second. But the Canadiens were basically just holding on in the second half of the game and Edmonton finally took advantage, popping in three past Jake Allen (who came in for an injured Carey Price who was hurt on a collision with Alex Chiasson in the first) before sealing it with an empty-netter.
Apr. 21: Canadiens 4, Oilers 3 – Montreal started out strong in this one and were able to keep it up for most of the game. Artturi Lehkonen got a key goal late in the first to give the Habs the lead while Josh Anderson quickly undid Connor McDavid’s equalizer in the second. Tyler Toffoli (with a rare power play marker) and Anderson looked to put away the game in the third, but an unnecessary high-sticking penalty from Jonathan Drouin gave the Oilers some late life; they scored a pair and nearly came close to tying it all within the final two and a half minutes but the Habs escaped with the victory.
Apr. 23: Flames 4, Canadiens 2 – Well, maybe with some momentum, Montreal might actually put forth a good effort against Calgary for once. That was the hope but no, they were listless for most of the game. The Habs actually got the lead late in the first before an Andrew Mangiapane power play goal with less than a minute left tied the game and basically sealed the coffin. The Canadiens folded the rest of the way and the end result was a loss in which the score flattered Montreal considering how poorly they played.
Apr. 24: Flames 5, Canadiens 2 – Knowing what’s at stake, there was no excuse to not have a better performance the next night. And, to be fair, they were a little better but that was a pretty low bar to clear. Again, a last-minute goal by Calgary in the first erased the lead and sent things spiraling in the wrong direction for the Canadiens and again, they couldn’t recover. Cayden Primeau made his season debut and got a first-hand look at the lack of goal support that Allen has been facing for weeks now.
Goals: Tyler Toffoli (24)
Assists: Drouin/Petry (21)
Points: Tyler Toffoli (35)
+/-: Joel Edmundson (+25)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (46)
Shots: Tyler Toffoli (137)
News And Notes
– Charlie Lindgren was recalled from Laval to the taxi squad as a result of Price’s suspected concussion. He went out on a private flight to keep him in the bubble meaning no quarantine was necessary. Price went back to Montreal on the return flight which keeps him technically in the bubble although he’s not expected to be on the ice over the next few days anyway.
– Jonathan Drouin missed both Calgary games due to illness while Paul Byron missed the second one with a lower-body injury. Tomas Tatar tried to play through a lower-body issue but left Saturday’s contest in the third period. From a cap perspective, the Habs cannot afford another emergency recall. That means that if none of them can play on Monday, they’ll either have to dress eight defencemen or go with seven blueliners and ten forwards to create the emergency situation to recall a forward. That forward would have to be Michael Frolik as Cole Caufield’s AAV is too high to be eligible for the cap-exempt emergency recall.
– With just one point (an assist) over his last nine games, Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s point per game average has dipped back to his rookie-season average at 0.43 per game.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Anderson
Toffoli – Suzuki – Perry
Lehkonen – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Staal – Evans
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Romanov – Merrill
The Week Ahead
Apr. 26: at Calgary – Yes, one more game against the Flames before the season series mercifully comes to an end. As bad as Montreal has played against them, a win in this one would restore them to the six-point cushion they had this time a week ago. One good game could be all they need. Can they do it though? It’s not easy to be confident heading into this one.
Apr. 28: vs Toronto – The Maple Leafs have been hit or miss as of late, following up a five-game win streak with a five-game losing streak where their goaltending came under fire. Frederik Andersen remains out of the lineup while they also lost Zach Bogosian for the rest of the regular season and Zach Hyman for a couple of weeks but just took two from Winnipeg to double their lead in the division.
Apr. 30: vs Winnipeg – The Jets didn’t do much to bolster their defence at the trade deadline aside from the addition of Jordie Benn who looks to be more of a sixth or seventh platoon option than a regular and Montreal has taken advantage of some miscues this season. Kyle Connor has been a thorn in their side all year long with 10 points in eight games while Nikolaj Ehlers is also over a point per game in the head-to-head matchup with nine points in eight contests.
May 1: vs Ottawa – The Sens have given Montreal fits this season and are quietly doing that to other teams as well as their younger players continue to develop. Matt Murray – if he’s back by then after leaving Saturday’s game early – has played the Habs much better than everyone else while Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, and Brady Tkachuk are in the midst of a three-way battle for the team scoring lead.
Leadership has been a buzzword that has been part of Marc Bergevin’s lexicon since he joined the team. He has spoken proudly of the leaders that the team has this season, a group that saw Corey Perry and Eric Staal join them in recent months. I’ve largely been inclined to agree that they’ve assembled a good group of leaders.
But how, then, does a team full of good leaders allow things to get as bad as they have in recent weeks? I’m not even speaking in terms of losses. Those happen and that’s not an automatic indictment of leadership. But how many games have they looked listless and disinterested? Players have talked about not being prepared. Part of that is on the coach but the players should be able to sufficiently prepare themselves, especially in a room full of leaders.
I get that fatigue is definitely a factor but leaders are known for rising to the occasion. There’s no time like the present for that to start happening. It’s time to see how much of a factor Montreal’s leadership can provide over these next few weeks.