The week certainly didn’t get off to a good start for the Habs but they were at least able to pick up a win at the end, giving them a small positive to build on as they head out for their first West Coast road trip of the season.
The Week That Was
Oct. 19: Sharks 5, Canadiens 0 – There was some hope that after a tough outing against the Rangers, Montreal would rebound against San Jose. That hope didn’t make it past the four-minute mark of the first period. By then, Jonathan Dahlen had his first two NHL goals and the Canadiens were already in deep trouble and were never really remotely close to getting back into the game.
Oct. 21: Hurricanes 4, Canadiens 1 – There was plenty of energy in the building for this one for a chance to boo Jesperi Kotkaniemi (more on that later) after he signed the offer sheet with Carolina in the offseason. Unfortunately for the Habs, that didn’t translate to consistent energy on the ice. They were better at times and Frederik Andersen was sharp but there were still too many passive moments with the ultimate frustration coming when Kotkaniemi tipped home the third goal for the visitors, the one that really took away any hope of a comeback at the same time.
Oct. 23: Canadiens 6, Red Wings 1 – Things didn’t get off to a good start as Detroit scored early on the power play and Montreal couldn’t muster up much offensively early on. However, as is often the case with a team (especially this one) going into a drought offensively, when they got going, the floodgates opened up. A trio of newcomers each scored their first goal as a Hab in Mike Hoffman, Christian Dvorak, and Mathieu Perreault with Perreault recording the final three of the game.
Goals: Mathieu Perreault (3)
Assists: Jonathan Drouin (3)
Points: Jonathan Drouin (5)
+/-: Kulak/Niku/Perreault (+3)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (10)
Shots: Tyler Toffoli (16)
News And Notes
– Joel Edmundson has returned to the team from his leave of absence although he’s not accompanying them on their upcoming road trip. That will rule him out through the end of the month at a minimum but his return is expected soon after that.
– Montreal’s ugly penalty kill has just a 57.1% success rate so far. That’s the worst mark in the Eastern Conference but somehow, three teams in the West have an even lower percentage.
– Jake Evans missed Tuesday’s game with a minor injury, allowing Adam Brooks to make his Montreal debut. Meanwhile, Mike Hoffman was activated off IR for Tuesday’s contest. Mathieu Perreault actually sat out for Hoffman in that first game but that may not happen again for a while with Perreault’s offensive outburst on Saturday.
Last Game’s Lines:
Hoffman – Suzuki – Gallagher
Drouin – Dvorak – Anderson
Toffoli – Perreault – Caufield
Lehkonen – Evans – Armia
Chiarot – Petry
Romanov – Savard
Niku – Kulak
The Week Ahead
Oct. 26: at Seattle – The Kraken’s first season has gotten off to a quiet start which shouldn’t come as much surprise – they are an expansion team, after all, and Vegas was the outlier, not the norm. This could be an opportunity for Montreal’s defence to get some confidence with Seattle at the bottom of the West in shots per game and while the focus is on Montreal’s lack of scoring, it masks the fact that the defence hasn’t been great either. It’s not an easy game by any stretch but the Habs have an opportunity to build off their win over Detroit.
Oct. 28: at San Jose – Yes, them again as the Habs will wrap up their season series with the Sharks before the first month of the season is even up. San Jose impressed on their Canadian road trip and won four straight to start the season with some of their veterans who underachieved greatly last year stepping up offensively. We know Evander Kane will still be out for this one after he was handed a 21-game suspension for using a fake vaccine card.
Oct. 30: at Los Angeles – The Kings were dealt a tough blow on Friday when Drew Doughty was injured. The early prognosis is positive but his availability for this one will certainly be in question. Anze Kopitar is off to a nice start offensively but after him and Doughty, few others have produced so far. Phillip Danault is logging just shy of 18 minutes a game so far playing behind Kopitar in the 2C role but has just one goal in five games so far.
Oct. 31: at Anaheim – The Ducks aren’t known for their offence but they’ve come out strong on that front with three players averaging at least a point per game through their first six contests. What’s even more surprising is that as a team that has usually hung their hat on their defence, they’re allowing an average of nearly 37 shots per game so far. The Canadiens typically have been a volume-shooting team (not so much this season, at least so far) so that could be something to watch for even with it being a back-to-back.
One of the storylines heading into the Carolina game was whether or not fans at the Bell Centre should boo Kotkaniemi. Not would they boo – it was obvious they would – but should they. I have to admit, I thought it was a joke question at first but it got a surprising amount of play in the Montreal market. The argument seemed to be that he made a decision that pretty much everyone else in his shoes would have made so why boo for Kotkaniemi doing what was right for him?
I don’t begrudge him for making the decision he made – it was absolutely the right one from his perspective – but he chose to pursue an offer sheet at a price point so high that it basically forced Montreal to let him go. Did he know for sure they wouldn’t match? No, but his agent’s smart enough to do the math if Kotkaniemi didn’t want to that would have clearly outlined that there was a very high chance of it not being matched. Did he choose to leave? Not by that literal definition but the path he took was one that he entered into with the knowledge that it would hurt the team, either by him leaving or someone else leaving for pennies on the dollar to afford the contract. Considering this is a market where some fans will boo former players who were simply traded and didn’t choose to leave, I’m pretty sure that Kotkaniemi’s actions qualify as a legitimate reason to boo.
Again, I can’t sit here and say he should have accepted the bridge deal that the Canadiens had on the table. He’s getting well above market value and is on a pretty good team which is a nice combination from his perspective. But his acceptance of the offer sheet ranges somewhere between choosing to hurt the team and choosing to leave. Of course fans are going to boo him for that, no matter how popular a player he was before. Even if he had stayed, he’d have been quick to be booed when he started to slump. For many fans, the team comes first. Even if Kotkaniemi did what was best for him and made a decision that many others would have made in his situation, he hurt the team. When that happens, the fans are going to boo and rightfully so. Besides, with the benefit of writing this after seeing how the game played out, I think he’s pretty happy with how it all turned out.