The Habs were finally able to put one in the win column this past week as they split a pair of games before an early extended holiday break due to COVID. Jeff Petry returned from injury and made some interesting comments following a loss that certainly didn’t help anyone’s cause.
The Week That Was
Dec. 14: Penguins 5, Canadiens 2 – From an effort perspective, this wasn’t a terrible game for the Habs. The execution wasn’t great and the defensive play struggled (again) but the combination of Drouin-Dauphin-Ylonen had some good looks and zone time and were responsible for both goals including Ylonen’s first of his career. That goal came in the dying seconds of the second period to make it a one-goal game but Brian Dumoulin’s first of the season in the opening minute of the third thwarted any hope of a comeback.
Dec. 16: Canadiens 3, Flyers 2 (SO) – The game got off to a good start for the Habs when Artturi Lehkonen tipped home Brett Kulak’s point shot to open the scoring. But as has often been the case this season, they struggled in the second period, allowing a pair of goals including Jackson Cates’ first career NHL goal with a minute left in the period. However, Dauphin was able to tie it up in the third and after a goalless overtime, Drouin picked up the only goal in the shootout.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Josh Anderson (7)
Assists: Suzuki/Toffoli (12)
Points: Nick Suzuki (18)
+/-: Niku/Norlinder (+2)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (26)
Shots: Nick Suzuki (68)
News And Notes
– Josh Anderson will be out until February with an upper-body injury while Christian Dvorak is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Joel Armia and Mathieu Perreault were placed on IR on Saturday. Jeff Petry came back from his issue while Paul Byron participated in practice on Sunday. Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Lukas Vejdemo, and Alex Belzile were all recalled from Laval.
– On the COVID front, Artturi Lehkonen, Laurent Dauphin, and Mike Hoffman were all placed in COVID protocol. Sami Niku and Brendan Gallagher both returned to practice and could play sometime this week.
– Chris Wideman missed both games last week due to the birth of his child.
– Cayden Primeau was brought up to start against Philadelphia with Corey Schueneman coming off the roster to make room. Primeau was sent back down on Friday.
– Laurent Dauphin’s goal against the Flyers was his first NHL goal since December 10, 2016 when he was with Arizona.
Last Game’s Lines:
Hoffman – Suzuki – Evans
Drouin – Dauphin – Ylonen
Lehkonen – Poehling – Caufield
Pezzetta – Paquette – Armia
Chiarot – Savard
Romanov – Petry
Kulak – Clague
The Week Ahead
This was going to be a section about Montreal’s upcoming three-game road trip in New York but that’s on hold with those games being postponed. So instead, here’s a look at what they’re scheduled to be playing after the holiday break.
Dec. 28: at Tampa Bay – Brayden Point is close to returning but it seems unlikely that he’ll be ready to suit up for this one. It shouldn’t matter too much as the Lightning haven’t had much trouble without their top centre in the lineup as they’re within a point of first in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps even more notable with how things are going around the league, they don’t have a single player in COVID protocol.
Dec. 30: at Carolina – Who is Tampa Bay behind in the East? Carolina, a team that has been hit quite hard with COVID but that hasn’t slowed them down, even beating Detroit in a game where they could only afford to dress 16 skaters. Sebastian Aho continues to lead the way offensively while Jesperi Kotkaniemi has five points in his last three games. The signing of Fredrik Andersen in the summer seemed a bit puzzling but he has been lights out with a .930 SV% and a 1.93 GAA in 21 starts so far.
Jan. 1: at Florida – The Panthers were one of the teams that were shut down fairly quickly when their COVID outbreak hit and by the time this game comes, everyone currently in protocol should be cleared to return. Florida hasn’t really skipped a beat since Andrew Brunette took over for Joel Quenneville behind the bench and Sergei Bobrovsky is playing like a high-end starter again instead of a low-end backup. While Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov get all of the attention, Anton Lundell is off to a nice start to his rookie season and is playing big minutes for Florida, logging over 16 minutes a night at centre.
Following the loss to Pittsburgh, Jeff Petry voiced some frustration but I think some of it is getting taken a little out of context. This is what he said:
“It’s frustrating. It’s the same things, over and over. We’re not playing as a team, we’re not playing as a group. It’s like you’re searching to find where people are. It seems like there’s no structure out there.”
“You watch it up top and there’s times where you’re scratching your head. I feel like everybody knows where we should be, but we’re not going to those places. We’re not making it easy for anybody on the ice except most of the time the other team.”
The overwhelming sentiment after the game was that this was a public criticism of Dominique Ducharme. After all, he’s the one that sets the system and let’s face it, the system isn’t working. It’s also Ducharme’s responsibility to get the team playing more like a team. But I don’t think that’s what Petry was voicing his frustration about.
I suspect this was more frustration with his teammates. If everyone knows where they’re supposed to be as he said, it’s not the fault of the coaches if they don’t go where they’re supposed to. That’s exclusively on the players. This is more of a player calling out his teammates than a player calling out the coach.
Of course, the frustrating part which is also somewhat ironic is that it’s Petry who said what he said. He has been a system buster all season long and his mistakes and lack of attention to detail have played a considerable role in things being as bad as they are. Of all the people to call out the team, it really shouldn’t have been him.
That said, as one of the veteran leaders, he’s taken it upon himself to take that step. Fine. But for the next few weeks once Montreal resumes their game action, Petry better be playing like he has shown himself to be capable of while following the system. That’s leading by example which is what the veterans should be doing. Petry has placed a spotlight on himself with his comments, here’s hoping he can handle the subsequent fallout.