The Habs got some players back in the lineup this past week but it didn’t do much to change their short-term fortunes as they lost two of their three games, including another basement battle against Arizona.
The Week That Was
Mar. 15: Coyotes 6, Canadiens 3 – Things didn’t get off to a good start for the Habs. Samuel Montembeault let in a bad one early and the defensive effort was shaky. The end result was four Arizona goals on seven shots in the first period, ending Montembeault’s game early while giving Montreal a hole that was simply too big to climb out of. Laurent Dauphin scored against his former team while Cole Caufield picked up a pair in eight seconds.
Mar. 17: Stars 4, Canadiens 3 (OT) – Montreal played a lot better in this one and benefited from the return of Jake Allen between the pipes, giving them some much-needed stability. Corey Schueneman’s first career NHL goal midway through the third gave the Canadiens their first lead of the game but it was short-lived as Dallas tied it up less than three minutes later. The overtime was an eventful one with the Habs killing off a carryover penalty while they also failed to score on a man advantage of their own. Then, in the dying seconds, John Klingberg snuck one past Allen who argued he was interfered with by Tyler Seguin, an opinion the officials didn’t share after reviewing the play.
Mar. 19: Canadiens 5, Senators 1 – Ottawa was without their starting goalie and their top defenceman and it showed as the Habs got the lead in the second period and never looked back. They got some goals from unexpected sources in this one with Paul Byron, Joel Armia, and Brett Kulak all beating Filip Gustavsson, the latter being a highlight-reel goal considering that Kulak is a defenceman.
Goals: Nick Suzuki (17)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (29)
Points: Nick Suzuki (46)
+/-: Sami Niku (+3)
PIMS: Michael Pezzetta (68)
Shots: Nick Suzuki (147)
News And Notes
– As expected, Ben Chiarot’s time with the Habs has come to an end as he was traded to Florida on Wednesday for prospect Ty Smilanic, a 2023 first-round pick, and a 2022 fourth-rounder. Montreal used one of their three retention slots to hold back half of Chiarot’s deal. Worth noting, these retentions are technically in effect until the start of free agency, not the end of the regular season when the contract stops being paid.
– With Jake Allen returning to the lineup, Cayden Primeau was sent back to Laval. Montreal also got Jonathan Drouin and Christian Dvorak back which meant that Jesse Ylonen’s time with the Canadiens on his recall was short-lived.
– Still on the injury front, Tyler Pitlick, Brendan Gallagher, and David Savard are now day-to-day while Kale Clague, Ryan Poehling, and Andrew Hammond will be out another one to two weeks. Carey Price has advanced to the next phase of his rehab but there remains no timetable for his return.
– Mathieu Perreault cleared waivers but he hasn’t been sent to Laval yet. With roster limits ending on Monday, it’s possible that he winds up staying up without ever making it to the minors. He was expected to meet with management to discuss his future although obviously, they’re not going to disclose how those talks went.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Anderson
Drouin – Pitlick – Hoffman
Lehkonen – Dvorak – Armia
Pezzetta – Evans – Byron
Romanov – Kulak
Edmundson – Petry
Schueneman – Wideman
The Week Ahead
Mar. 21: vs Boston – The Bruins found themselves without Patrice Bergeron for the last couple of games and his status for this one is up in the air. They will, however, have Hampus Lindholm available on the back end after they made a move to acquire him from Anaheim and quickly extended him. Jordan Harris – who some believe would like to go to Boston – plays the same side as Lindholm so is that something that could factor into his decision on whether or not to sign with Montreal?
Mar. 24: vs Florida – The Panthers have been loading up and have added Ben Chiarot, Claude Giroux, and Robert Hagg so far and all three may make their Florida debuts in this one. They will be without Aaron Ekblad though whose regular season has come to an end (he’ll be back early in the playoffs though); while that’s a big loss for them, it also gives them some unplanned extra cap flexibility.
Mar. 26: vs Toronto – It’s a good thing the Canadiens are out of contention as otherwise, this gauntlet of a week would be particularly frustrating. The Maple Leafs have added Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwell but haven’t addressed their goaltending (and no, Harri Sateri isn’t the solution). Petr Mrazek was waived today so it’s unlikely he’ll be between the pipes for this one while Jack Campbell is out as well, leaving Erik Kallgren as their current starter.
Mar. 27: at New Jersey – If there’s a team that has had similar goalie problems as the Habs this year, it’s the Devils. New Jersey has been without Jonathan Bernier for most of the year while Mackenzie Blackwood has been out for a while as well. The one difference is that their young goalie (Nico Daws) has come up and played well, unlike Cayden Primeau. If you’re watching the reverse standings closely, New Jersey is six points up on Montreal.
Let’s talk about a big thing that Montreal fans should want to keep an eye on. And no, it’s not the trade deadline (although that, too, is quite important). I’m actually talking about the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament. If you don’t follow college hockey much, the Canadiens have a lot of prospects suiting up in that tournament. All told, seven of them will be in action with their first matchups as follows:
14 Northeastern (Jordan Harris and Jayden Struble) vs. 3 Western Michigan
4 Denver (Brett Stapley) vs. 13 UMass Lowell
8 Quinnipiac (Ty Smilanic) vs. 9 St. Cloud State
6 Minnesota (Rhett Pitlick) vs. 11 UMass
15 Harvard (Sean Farrell) vs. 2 Minnesota State
5 Minnesota-Duluth (Blake Biondi) vs. 12 Michigan Tech
These are win or go home games. Several of these players will be staying past this season but Harris and Stapley are the ones to watch as they’re in their final seasons. As soon as their teams lose, they can sign right away where the questions become whether or not they sign with Montreal and will the contracts begin this season. For Harris, they’ll need to burn the first year now, Stapley is a bit of a toss-up. Now, to swing it back to the thing everyone’s paying attention to, keep these prospects in mind as you watch on deadline day as their situations will play a role in what they do or don’t do as they’ll have to keep some contract slots open past the trade deadline to make sure they can sign those players when the time comes.