Despite a depleted lineup due to injuries and plenty of recalls to Montreal, Laval still had a strong week, picking up a pair of victories in three games to hang around the playoff picture.
The Week That Was
Dec. 8: Rocket 3, Moose 2 – Mattias Norlinder was back with the Rocket for the week in an effort to give him some playing time. He got some power play minutes (imagine, putting a player in a position they’re comfortable with to give them the best chance of succeeding) and made an early impact as his goal in the second period gave the Rocket the lead. Kevin Roy added the much-needed insurance marker in the third as Manitoba scored one late with the goalie out to make it interesting.
Dec. 10: Americans 5, Rocket 3 – Putting the highest-scoring team in the league against the worst defensive team generally doesn’t go well for the latter. Laval actually played a pretty good game overall and Rochester was only able to dress 17 skaters. However, Lukas Vejdemo’s two goals weren’t enough while Norlinder picked up his first career AHL assist a game after scoring his first goal.
Dec. 12:Rocket 4, Bears 2 – This game was the Cayden Primeau show, especially in the final two periods when Laval basically had nothing in the tank. Hershey fired 30 shots over the final 40 minutes but only one of them got past Primeau. That was enough for the Rocket who received two shorthanded goals which is a rarity, even rarer was the fact that one was a penalty shot when Rafael Harvey-Pinard potted his first of two in the third period to secure the win.
Goals: Laurent Dauphin (11)
Assists: Paquette-Bisson/Ylonen (10)
Points: Laurent Dauphin (16)
+/-: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (+9)
PIMS: Louis Belpedio (47)
Shots: Laurent Dauphin (61)
News And Notes
– Laval got some good news on the injury front as J-C Beaudin returned after missing nearly six weeks while Gianni Fairbrother came back for Sunday’s contest, his first game action in nearly a month. Michael McNiven (illness) was able to dress so Kevin Poulin was sent back to Trois-Rivieres. Charles-David Beaudoin was sent down to the Lions as well.
– Alex Belzile took over the franchise lead for goals scored. His ‘record’ lasted one game as Lukas Vejdemo passed him with his two-goal game in Rochester. They’ll probably be going back and forth for a little while for this one. Vejdemo’s two goals moved him into third all-time in points; Belzile is first while Jake Evans is second.
– After recording just five points in his first 16 games of the season, Rafael Harvey-Pinard is on a nice little run at the moment with seven points in his last six contests.
Last Game’s Lines:
Bourque – Dea – Beaudin
Harvey-Pinard – Vejdemo – Belzile
Martel – Gignac – Roy
Baddock – Hillis – Abbandonato
Amorosa – Belpedio
Norlinder – Dello
Fairbrother – Paquette-Bisson
The Week Ahead
Dec. 17: vs Providence – The Bruins haven’t scored much but they are one of the stingiest defensive teams in the league which has them in third place in the Atlantic. After a tough sophomore season, Oskar Steen is leading the way for the Bruins as he’s averaging over a point per game while newcomer Jesper Froden has been a nice addition to their top six, leading them in assists.
Dec. 18: at Syracuse – The Crunch are usually a contender so it’s weird to see them at the bottom of the North Division. They continue to be led by a pair of former Montreal prospects in Gabriel Dumont and Charles Hudon but goaltending has been their downfall; instead of being a key veteran, Maxime Lagace has a save percentage of just .846 which has resulted in a pair of rookies seeing a lot of time between the pipes.
There was one other sort of Laval-related note last week when the Habs released Arsen Khisamutdinov. I say sort of Laval-related as he didn’t actually spend any time with the Rocket this season as he was quickly cut and sent to Trois-Rivieres where things didn’t exactly get any better leading to him asking for his release. Admittedly, I’m surprised it took that long as surely there’s a spot in Russia where he could make similar money to what he was getting to ride the buses in the ECHL.
I’m not ready to call this a bust pick on Trevor Timmins’ resume though. Khisamutdinov was a late sixth-round pick and the track record of success league-wide isn’t very good. Him not panning out isn’t him being a bust but rather just one of many to not quite make it. That may not seem like much of a difference but it is to me; bust is used for higher-touted prospects that didn’t pan out.
The Habs took a gamble on being able to develop the rest of Khisamutdinov’s game and that he’d have been sought after as a free agent had he not been picked. It didn’t quite happen as he never really was able to keep up with the pace at the lower levels and that’s a big red flag. The strategy of trying to jump the queue and draft a projected free agent target certainly made sense though – they used it a round later with the selection of Rafael Harvey-Pinard, a pick that looks pretty good so far. While the strategy didn’t work with Khisamutdinov, it’s one I wouldn’t mind seeing them continuing to try in the years to come – even if they only hit on one or two, it’d probably still be worth it.