The Habs had a trio of Western Conference opponents on the docket this past week and put forth three different efforts. One was lousy, one was mediocre that required Jake Allen stealing a game, and the other was pretty good although they weren’t rewarded for their efforts.
The Week That Was
Nov. 29: Sharks 4, Canadiens 0 – There are games throughout the season where teams play down to the level of their opponent. Not that Montreal is a world-beater by any stretch but San Jose is near the basement of the standings for a reason. They were down early once again and couldn’t muster up much offensively. The Sharks potted two quick ones to start the third, ending any hopes of a comeback in a hurry.
Dec. 1: Canadiens 2, Flames 1 – Sean Monahan’s return to Calgary got off to a fun start as on the opening shift, Jacob Markstrom chose to chase down a loose puck. Instead, it went right to Juraj Slafkovsky who buried the empty-netter to open up the scoring. From there, it was the Jake Allen show as he made 45 saves, allowing just the one goal late in the second period. Montreal’s top offensive duo connected on the power play in the third with Cole Caufield potting the winner.
Dec. 3: Oilers 5, Canadiens 3 – At even strength, the Habs played quite well and didn’t let Edmonton generate too much in the way of chances, a stark contrast to what happened in Calgary. However, giving Edmonton three separate two-man advantages is asking for trouble. The end result was three power play goals and that’s hard to overcome. So, too, was another goal allowed in the final minute of the second, this time as a result of an untimely Johnathan Kovacevic turnover. Evgenii Dadonov potted just his second of the season in the losing effort.
Goals: Caufield/Suzuki (13)
Assists: Kirby Dach (14)
Points: Nick Suzuki (26)
+/-: Johnathan Kovacevic (+4)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (51)
Shots: Cole Caufield (89)
News And Notes
– Brendan Gallagher is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. With Montreal needing to recall a forward just to get to 12, Mike Hoffman was placed on IR to open up a roster spot for Rem Pitlick to be recalled from Laval.
– Generally speaking, there shouldn’t be too big of a gap between goalie numbers at home and on the road. Perhaps a little better at home but nothing too drastic. Jake Allen appears to be the opposite. His save percentage at home is just .872 while on the road, it’s .923.
– Kirby Dach is slumping a bit in the goal-scoring department as he has failed to score in the last ten games (shootout goals don’t count in individual production stats). He does, however, have six assists in that span.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Dach
Slafkovsky – Monahan – Anderson
Dadonov – Dvorak – Armia
Pezzetta – Evans – Pitlick
Matheson – Savard
Edmundson – Guhle
Xhekaj – Kovacevic
The Week Ahead
Monday at Vancouver – It has been a rough go for the Canucks this season who were very slow out of the gate. However, they’ve quietly won six out of their last nine games as their fortunes are starting to turn around. The Habs will catch them without Thatcher Demko as he will miss the next six weeks so veteran journeyman Spencer Martin is now the starting goalie. Bo Horvat continues to score at a crazy pace in his contract year (19 goals already) while Quinn Hughes is averaging more than a point per game despite the fact he hasn’t scored a goal yet this season.
Tuesday at Seattle – Hands up if you thought Seattle would be in the top ten in scoring this season. I assume no one is raising their hands; why would they after the Kraken finished 29th in that department last season? But they’re in the top ten this season with newcomer Andre Burakovsky leading the way while Matty Beniers’ first full NHL campaign is going quite well. Of course, this is the ‘Shane Wright Revenge Game’. He’ll be up from his conditioning stint by then and the team plans to assess him in a game or two before deciding what to do with him for the World Juniors. Safe to say he’ll get a longer look than he has been and he might just be slightly motivated too.
Saturday vs Los Angeles – Scoring goals hasn’t been a problem for the Kings this season. Stopping them has been a big problem, however. You might have heard about the 9-8 overtime loss to Seattle that saw Cal Petersen, the goalie that’s supposed to be their starter, put on waivers. Kevin Fiala has been a nice addition as he leads the team in scoring but the biggest surprise has been Gabriel Vilardi. The big forward (who has mostly played on the wing after being drafted as a centre) had just 18 career NHL goals heading into the season but is at 13 already.
While I applaud the Habs for trying to get creative when it comes to their
young defencemen and keeping them all on the roster, this rotation that they’re on is only a short-term solution. It’s fine for a week or two and if someone gets injured, everyone’s fresh and you carry on without a problem. But after a couple of weeks, it starts to become a challenge.
That’s where Montreal finds itself right now. Particularly, it’s Jordan Harris that appears to be the odd man out. With Kaiden Guhle more than holding his own on his off-side, that opens up a spot for Arber Xhekaj to stay in the lineup regularly with veterans Joel Edmundson and Mike Matheson rounding out the left side. If the options are rotating Harris (on his off-side) and Johnathan Kovacevic with maybe the odd appearance for Harris over Xhekaj, I’m not sure that’s great for his development.
Laval went from having too many defencemen to barely enough in the span of 48 hours so the logjam there is gone. It’s time for the Habs to send Harris down and get him some consistent action for a few weeks. They can wait until after the road trip, that only makes sense but by the middle of next week, a press release announcing Harris has been sent to Laval would make a lot of sense all around.