The final stretch of the season was a tough one for Laval. Despite outplaying the Marlies for significant stretches, it didn’t result in much success as they only managed to pick up three points in five games to end their season on a quiet note.
The Week That Was
May 11: Rocket 4, Marlies 2 – One of those dominant stretches I just mentioned came in the opening period as Laval came out flying in this one and they were eventually rewarded for their efforts with a pair of late goals from Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Yannick Veilleux. Jesse Ylonen stretched the lead to three before they did their usual custom of taking their foot off the gas and letting Toronto back in it only to seal it with a late empty-netter.
May 12: Marlies 3, Rocket 2 – Laval iced a rare lineup of 10 forwards and eight defencemen with their roster pretty much gutted at this point due to injuries and recalls. They still controlled the game but the penalty kill let them down in the second period as the Marlies scored on both of their power play opportunities with the latter standing as the winner.
May 14: Marlies 3, Rocket 2 – After a couple of shaky outings with the Habs, Cayden Primeau returned to Laval hoping to get some confidence back. That didn’t exactly happen as Toronto had two past him before the eight-minute mark of the first period. Veilleux and Alex Belzile got those back in the second but a late goal in the middle frame from Pavel Gogolev gave the Marlies the victory.
May 15: Marlies 3, Rocket 2 (OT) – It was Laval’s turn to execute a late comeback in the third period as Jordan Weal tied it up with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. That got them a point to keep them alive in the chase for the best winning percentage in the AHL but Gogolev’s early overtime winner put an end to those hopes.
May 17: Marlies 2, Rocket 0 – Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher accepted conditioning assignments for this one but like Primeau, Price coughed up a couple of quick ones before settling in. He made it through two periods while Gallagher was his usual self although he was a little more involved in the rough stuff than I’d have preferred – save that for games that do matter. Both of them made it through without an injury so that’s a win in itself.
Goals: Yannick Veilleux (14)
Assists: Jordan Weal (17)
Points: Ryan Poehling (25)
+/-: Tobie Paquette-Bisson (+17)
PIMS: Brandon Baddock (64)
Shots: Jordan Weal (93)
News And Notes
– Josh Brook played on the right wing this week, jumping all the way up to the first line at one point. However, he suffered an injury in Saturday’s game, taking away any chances of being a Black Ace recall in the process. Speaking of that, nine players were brought up for that purpose.
– Laval’s second game of the week saw them only dress one goalie on top of eight defencemen. An illness to Vasili Demchenko made him unavailable and with Charlie Lindgren and Cayden Primeau up in Montreal, they were out of options. Andrew D’Agostini, Toronto’s third-stringer, was the unofficial backup goalie for the Rocket in that one.
– Tobie Paquette-Bisson finished the season tied for fifth in plus/minus with a +17 rating. Not bad for a rookie who couldn’t get into the lineup to start the season. He confirmed that talks have started on a new deal for next season; he’s set to become an AHL free agent.
– Rafael Harvey-Pinard’s strong rookie campaign was rewarded with a new deal as after playing on a minor league pact this season, he signed a two-year, entry-level contract with Montreal.
Last Game’s Lines:
Veilleux – Dauphin – Belzile
Harvey-Pinard – Weal – Gallagher
Lucchini – Vejdemo – Ylonen
Baddock – Hillis – Mysak
Schueneman – Leskinen
Paquette-Bisson – Fleury
Ouellet – Olofsson
There are plenty of free agents on this roster but the most important one isn’t a player. Instead, it’s head coach Joel Bouchard who confirmed that his deal is up and that discussions have been stalled due to the pandemic. I’m still skeptical as to whether or not his aggressive coaching style will work with a veteran-laden NHL team but there’s no denying that it works in the minors. Several prospects have taken steps forward in their development and Bouchard (and the coaching staff) are deserving of some credit. If he’s willing to sign another deal to coach Laval, they need to bring him back.
It may not be that simple, however. I don’t think he’ll get much of a look for most of the NHL head coaching jobs but there will be vacancies to serve as an assistant which would be another useful stepping stone towards becoming an NHL head coach. Assuming Marc Bergevin is back as GM for next season (that has to be the assumption until something changes), it’s hard to see major changes being made again to the coaching staff. Sure, a token spot as an extra assistant could be offered but there could and probably would be better opportunities as far as assistant jobs out there. If Bouchard wants to take that step, it may have to be elsewhere.
It’s not often that a coach is the most interesting free agent out there but this is definitely one of them. Here’s hoping he’s open to staying with the Rocket but if he wants to become an assistant, it’s hard to argue with the logic. Accordingly, retaining him is not the no-brainer decision that it may seem.