There was a theme for the Habs this past week as all three of their games ended with an identical 5-2 score. Two of those three contests resulted in victories on the heels of some strong goaltending.
The Week That Was
Feb. 21: Canadiens 5, Devils 2 – With one team clearly in win-now mode and another missing half their team, this should have been an easy one for New Jersey. Someone forgot to give Samuel Montembeault the message. Montreal was more than doubled up on in shots but it didn’t matter as Montembeault had one of his best outings of the season while the Habs got three goals from their back end to pace them to the victory.
Feb. 24: Canadiens 5, Flyers 2 – Philadelphia showed they’re a force to be reckoned with…in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. They didn’t put up much of an effort and while the Habs didn’t have their best game either, it was more than enough to get through this one without much concern. Jesse Ylonen picked up his first of the season and Alex Belzile held his own in a rare fight.
Feb. 26: Senators 5, Canadiens 2 – This time, the tables were turned. The Habs actually had the lead in the second period following goals from Mike Matheson and Nick Suzuki and with Ottawa not at their best, it looked like they’d have a chance to sweep the week. However, the Sens were much better in the second half of the game, potting four unanswered to run away with it.
Goals: Cole Caufield (26)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (26)
Points: Nick Suzuki (46)
+/-: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (+8)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (101)
Shots: Cole Caufield (158)
News And Notes
– Arber Xhekaj’s season has come to an end as he’ll undergo shoulder surgery next week. He’s expected to be ready to return for training camp.
– There is some good news on the defence front though. Kaiden Guhle has been cleared to return so Corey Schueneman has been sent back to Laval. Joel Edmundson is also going on their West Coast road trip.
– However, Sean Monahan, Kirby Dach, and Joel Armia won’t be on the trip so they’ll be out for the next four games barring an unexpected change.
– The Habs claimed Chris Tierney off waivers from Florida. He’ll fill a depth role down the stretch.
– On Sunday, the Canadiens traded Evgenii Dadonov to Dallas for winger Denis Gurianov. Montreal has used one of their three retention slots on Dadonov, holding back half his salary and cap hit.
Last Game’s Lines:
Harvey-Pinard – Suzuki – Anderson
Hoffman – Drouin – Ylonen
Pitlick – Dvorak – Dadonov
Pezzetta – Tierney – Belzile
Schueneman – Savard
Matheson – Barron
Harris – Kovacevic
The Week Ahead
Tuesday at San Jose – The Habs don’t typically do well against the Sharks but San Jose is certainly in selling mode after moving Timo Meier to New Jersey so they’re racing to the basement which could make this one a close game, if nothing else. Erik Karlsson is in the middle of a resurgent season, leading all defencemen in scoring by a sizable margin but both Kaapo Kakhonen and James Reimer have struggled between the pipes.
Thursday at Los Angeles – The Kings are nicely in a playoff spot despite continuing to have challenges between the pipes with starting goalie Cal Petersen now in the minors and career minor leaguer Pheonix Copley now their defacto number one. However, they’re one of the top-scoring teams in the league with newcomer Kevin Fiala leading the way, averaging more than a point per game while former Hab Phillip Danault is already past the 40-point mark.
Friday at Anaheim – This has been another rough season for the Ducks. They are ‘contenders’ for dead last in the league with an undesirable combination of being near the bottom of the league in goals scored and the top of the league in goals allowed at over four per game. Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry are having decent seasons offensively but after that, it falls off in a hurry while John Gibson continues to be quite inconsistent between the pipes.
Sunday at Vegas – The Golden Knights no longer have Shea Weber on the roster as he was traded to Arizona in a move that many expected to happen at some point. They’re certainly not finished with LTIR, however, as several players are on there including captain Mark Stone and goaltender Robin Lehner; this year’s starter Logan Thompson is also injured at the moment. Despite that, they lead the Pacific Division and have already made a move to upgrade their roster with Ivan Barbashev. There will probably be other newcomers for this game.
The trade deadline is now less than a week away but I don’t expect to see much from the Habs. There have been reports that they’re open to being a third-party facilitator for a move which is a sign that they don’t think Jonathan Drouin will be moved. I assume the other spot might be earmarked for Sean Monahan but with his uncertain health, there’s no guarantee he’ll be moving either. Beyond that, how many other realistically movable pieces do they have? Sure, there are players like Mike Hoffman that they might want to move but with him and others signed beyond this season, the summer might be an easier move for those.
I’d actually like to see them add a depth piece or two, just to allow one of the forwards to go back to Laval for the stretch run. The Habs aren’t going to make the playoffs but Laval definitely could and bolstering their roster would certainly help their chances and in doing so, improve the hopes of some prospects getting some extra development in. However, they’ll likely need to match contracts as they only have three open slots left and at least two of those are likely heading for college signings which doesn’t leave for much flexibility. Last season was an eventful deadline for GM Kent Hughes and the Canadiens. I’d be stunned if this one is remotely close to that level for Montreal.