After a tough end to their long homestand, Laval was out on the road last week for three games in as many days. The changes of venue didn’t make too much of a difference; they were able to get a victory but continue to struggle offensively.
The Week That Was
Nov. 11: Laval 5, Utica 4 – Good starts have been an issue for Laval this season but they were able to get one this time, scoring twice in the opening 12 minutes. However, they couldn’t sustain it and were trailing after 20 minutes. A rare shorthanded goal for the Rocket tied it up again while Xavier Simoneau re-tied it late in the second after the Comets took the lead again. That set the stage for Anthony Richard’s overtime winner with a minute to go to snap the losing streak.
Nov. 12: Lehigh Valley 3, Laval 2 – Back to normal the Rocket went when it came to slow starts as they were down by two after two; trailing heading into the third has been a pattern for a lot of this season. To their credit, Laval was able to bounce back and tie it up early in the third with power play goals from Justin Barron and Jesse Ylonen. However, Cam York restored the lead just 90 seconds later and the Rocket couldn’t pull off the comeback once more.
Nov. 13: Hershey 4, Laval 1 – In a battle of two teams playing their third game in less than 48 hours, Laval was the more sluggish of the two teams. Once again, they couldn’t muster up much of a start and their performance in the second period was particularly rough. The end result was that they were down by three heading into the third and they didn’t have enough in the tank to even attempt a comeback; Richard broke the shutout but that’s as close as they got.
Goals: Anthony Richard (10)
Assists: Xavier Simoneau (7)
Points: Anthony Richard (14)
+/-: Tory Dello (+5)
PIMS: Anthony Richard (18)
Shots: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (49)
News And Notes
– Joe Vrbetic got another brief recall to Laval but was quickly assigned to ECHL Trois-Rivieres the next day. That’s the second time they’ve done that this season.
– Alex Belzile and Nate Schnarr both returned from their respective injuries.
– Rem Pitlick was sent down by the Habs after clearing waivers. He played in all three games last week and has since been recalled.
Last Game’s Lines:
Pitlick – Gignac – Ylonen
Richard – Simoneau – Harvey-Pinard
Bourque – Stephens – Belzile
Condotta – Mysak – Schnarr
Schueneman – Barron
Beaudin – Dello
Norlinder – Leskinen
The Week Ahead
Wednesday – vs Abbotsford – It’s a rare matchup against a team from the Pacific Division. Abbotsford enters the game in eighth place despite being above .500. Linus Karlsson’s first season in North America has been a good one as he leads the Canucks in scoring, averaging a point per game ahead of some capable veterans on what is a team that skews a little older. Former Hab Noah Juulsen is back for another year with Vancouver’s farm team and has been up and down a couple of times already.
Friday/Saturday – vs Cleveland – It has been a lousy year for Columbus but the same can’t be said about their farm team. The Monsters have four forwards averaging a point per game or better although the Rocket might catch a break with a couple of them being up with the Blue Jackets who have been hit hard by injuries. Former Hab prospect Cole Fonstad is seventh on the team in scoring after putting up 20 points in 45 games with Cleveland last season.
I remember there being a common sentiment that Rafael Harvey-Pinard was showing last season in the playoffs that he had nothing left to prove at this level. He certainly played quite well and was one of the few skaters that stepped up their performance in the postseason but I still had questions about whether he could produce at a high enough level consistently to really push his way into the NHL conversation.
We know he’s the type of energy player that can fit in on a fourth line in the NHL. We’ve seen it in his limited appearances with the Habs already. But what makes this season so critical from a development perspective is whether or not that’s his NHL ceiling. If he can’t beat his numbers from last season (at least on a per-game basis), this might be as high as he goes on the depth chart. And don’t get me wrong, I like him as a prospect but if that’s his upside, he’s hardly an indispensable player.
As the season progresses in Montreal, there will be calls to call him up and give him some NHL action. I won’t be one of those. This is exactly where Harvey-Pinard needs to be right now, being tested as a go-to player on a team that doesn’t exactly have much firepower. If he can overcome that and become a consistent top-line scorer this season, that would be a big step forward in his development and potentially give him some more upside as a possible third liner. That’s worth a lot more to me than a few games playing eight minutes a night on the fourth line with the Canadiens. It’s a big year for the 23-year-old but sometimes, staying in the minors makes the most sense for a prospect. This feels like one of those times.