The week got off to a decent start for the Habs but they were unable to sustain it as they dropped their last three for their second three-game losing streak of the season. Montreal also got some disappointing news on the prospect front with a pair of players being cut from Canada’s World Junior camp.
The Week That Was
Dec. 12: Canadiens 2, Flames 1 (SO) – Despite the lack of scoring, there were quite a few chances between the two teams in what was a physical and pretty entertaining game for a low-scoring affair. Jake Allen was sharp in goal and needed to be since Montreal’s dreadful power play struggled mightily. They had some chances in regulation and couldn’t capitalize but also squandered a full four-minute advantage in overtime. However, Kirby Dach was able to secure the win with his goal in the shootout.
Dec. 14: Senators 3, Canadiens 2 – Getting into penalty trouble is never a good idea, especially against a team with a good power play. That proved true in the second period as the Sens scored a pair with the man advantage, allowing them to carry a three-goal lead into the third. Those are always hard to come back from and while goals from Dach and Dvorak made it more interesting than it probably should have been, Montreal wasn’t able to get any closer than that.
Dec. 15: Ducks 5, Canadiens 2 – With Anaheim not yet having won outside California this season, this felt like a winnable game for Montreal. The Habs played as if they felt that way exactly. The end result was the Ducks carrying a two-goal lead into the third although Cole Caufield was able to erase that in the final frame. However, John Klingberg’s second of the game (and just his third of the season) proved to be the winner while they added a pair of empty-netters for good measure.
Dec. 17: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1 – Good teams are supposed to beat not-good teams. That’s precisely how this played out. In the first period, the Habs actually put up a decent fight but weren’t rewarded for their efforts as they were down 2-0 and things snowballed from there. In particular, more penalty trouble in the second period came back to bite them as Tampa Bay scored twice in the middle stanza on the man advantage. Suffice it to say, discipline is something Montreal needs to work on.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Cole Caufield (18)
Assists: Dach/Suzuki (16)
Points: Nick Suzuki (31)
+/-: Johnathan Kovacevic (+4)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (63)
Shots: Cole Caufield (105)
News And Notes
– The Habs welcomed back Mike Matheson after he missed three games. Meanwhile, they (finally) placed David Savard on injured reserve, allowing them to be able to bring up an extra skater for their road trip.
– With Rem Pitlick’s waiver exemption soon to expire, the Habs sent him back to Laval and promoted Anthony Richard. Richard has been among the top scorers in the league all season.
– Arber Xhekaj’s fight against Tampa Bay pushed him back into the NHL lead in that category.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Anderson
Slafkovsky – Dach – Drouin
Hoffman – Dvorak – Armia
Pezzetta – Evans – Pitlick
Matheson – Harris
Edmundson – Guhle
Xhekaj – Kovacevic
The Week Ahead
Monday at Arizona – The Habs will get their first look at Mullett Arena in this one, a 4,600-seat facility that’s designed for college hockey but the Coyotes will call it home until their new arena development in Tempe is done (which will be a few years). Arizona actually comes into this one having won three of their last five games. They’re led offensively by Clayton Keller who’s averaging a point per game while rookie Matias Maccelli sits second in the league in rookie points with 21.
Wednesday at Colorado – The defending Cup champs haven’t exactly been lighting it up this season. However, in their defence, they’ve been hit hard by injuries this season; only one of their top six forwards has managed to play in every game thus far and the team is rolling through depth pieces (including Alex Galchenyuk and Charles Hudon) to see if someone can stick. To that end, the Avs will be without Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog (among others) for this one. Former Hab Artturi Lehkonen has been streaky this season but does have 21 points in 26 games while logging over 21 minutes a night. It’s safe to say Colorado is pleased with the trade from last season.
Friday at Dallas – The Stars currently lead the Central Division on the backs of an offence that sits second in the NHL led by Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz. Jake Oettinger continues to impress between the pipes in his first full NHL season (seriously, he was in the minors at one point last year) while Miro Heiskanen has become one of the top two-way blueliners in the NHL. Even with some bloated contracts hurting their cap situation (Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin), Dallas is one of the most dangerous teams in the league right now.
It seemed like there were a lot of people surprised that Owen Beck was cut from Canada’s World Junior team. I can understand why too. Here’s a centre that is well above average on the draw and can play in all situations. That sounds like the prototypical bottom-six utility player that often can be a difference-maker in this tournament.
However, if there’s one thing that Canada has a lot of on their roster, it’s centres. In particular, older centres. Several middlemen will be on the wing which negates some of the intangibles that Beck brings to the table and that worked against him in their roster selection. In most years, he’d have been a perfect candidate for their fourth line in his age-18 year with an eye on a bigger role the following tournament. His cut was more a case of bad luck than anything else.
The same can be said for Riley Kidney. He was going to be in tough to make this team this time, one that was much closer to full strength than the summer edition. And then suffering an injury in the first period of the first tryout game sealed his fate before he really got a chance. At least he got to experience the tournament last time, even if it wasn’t a typical event.
The Habs have had a lot go right with their prospects this season but in this case, bad luck hit them with both Beck and Kidney for two very different reasons.