Although the Habs didn’t start the playoffs on a high note, they find themselves in good shape through three games of their first round series. In St. John’s, it took until the final day of the season but the IceCaps are indeed heading for the postseason as they get set to take on Syracuse. They join the ECHL’s Brampton Beast as playoff-bound affiliates, making it the first time in a while that both minor league squads are in the postseason at the same time.
Brendan Gallagher: He’s off to a nice start in the series but I’m concerned he’s going to find himself out of the lineup soon enough if he keeps getting involved in the ‘extra curriculars’ after every whistle. Yes, he loves to be a pest but it doesn’t mean he has to try to do something in that regard virtually every shift he’s on the ice. Given his recent injury history with his hand and his smaller stature in general, it’s not crazy to think he’ll goad an opponent into a penalty but it will be one that takes Gallagher out too. It’s a big part of his game but I’d like to see him be a bit more selective these next few games.
Nikita Nesterov: Even if someone else gets hurt on the blueline, I don’t think I’d want to see Nesterov take his place; I’d rather someone come up from St. John’s instead. Weaknesses tend to be exploited a lot more in the postseason which makes playing a defender whose weakness is defence a risky proposition at the best of times. Nesterov is okay as a depth option in the regular season but it’s too risky to rely on him to not make any glaring mistakes in his own end with the games being as important as they are now.
Shea Weber: After being exploited considerably for the Predators last year in the playoffs, I had some concerns about history repeating itself against the Rangers. New York is a quick team and it was San Jose’s speed that gave Weber fits last year. Fortunately, he hasn’t had anywhere near the issues he did and instead, he has established himself as a real threat so far. Holding him out of the final few regular season games appears to have been a good call so far although as the series progresses, it’s fair to expect him to tire out a bit, especially if he keeps logging as much ice time as he has been.
Goals: Alexander Radulov (2)
Assists: Alexander Radulov (3)
Points: Alexander Radulov (5)
+/-: Shea Weber (+3)
PIMS: Andrei Markov (10)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (17)
It took until the last game of the season but the IceCaps are heading to the playoffs thanks to a Saturday night victory against Toronto, setting up a first round matchup with Syracuse, a team that has been bolstered in a big way with a boatload of demotions from Tampa Bay with the Lightning missing the playoffs.
News and Notes:
– Chris Terry set a new St. John’s record in goals with his 30th of the season on Saturday. The point on that tally moved him into sole possession of second in AHL scoring, 15 points behind Chicago’s Kenny Agostino.
– With Charlie Lindgren back in St. John’s, Zach Fucale was re-assigned to Brampton of the ECHL in time for their playoff debut.
– The IceCaps announced their end-of-season awards. The winners are:
Fans’ Choice: Jacob de la Rose
Molson Cup: Charlie Lindgren
Rookie of the Year: Charlie Lindgren
Community Award: David Broll
Top Defenceman: Joel Hanley
MVP: Chris Terry
– St. John’s benefited from a rule change to get their playoff spot. Last year, there was the potential for a cross-over if the fifth place team in the Atlantic Division had more points than the fourth place in the North (or vice versa). That was scrapped this season in place of the top four from each division making it no matter what. Not only did the fifth place team in the Atlantic (Bridgeport) have more points than the IceCaps, they had more points than any team in the North Division; the Sound Tigers had 92 while the Crunch only had 90.
– Lines from last game:
Hudon – Terry – Scherbak
Matteau – de la Rose – Friberg
Veilleux – Audette – Farnham
MacMillan – Petti – Camara
Brouillette – Redmond
Hanley – Lernout
Lowe – Didier
|20||Jacob de la Rose||2||1||1||-2||7||0|
Goals: Chris Terry (30)
Assists: Chris Terry (38)
Points: Chris Terry (68)
+/-: Keegan Lowe (+12)
PIMS: Bobby Farnham (137)
Shots: Chris Terry (190)
Round 1 Schedule:
April 21: Syracuse vs St. John’s
April 22: Syracuse vs St. John’s
April 26: St. John’s vs Syracuse
April 28: St. John’s vs Syracuse
April 29: St. John’s vs Syracuse
While the power play showing some signs of life as of late has been drawing a lot of attention, I’m more impressed with the performance of the other special teams unit. Montreal’s penalty kill hasn’t given the Rangers a whole lot to work with and they’re even starting to generate some counter-attacks as well. With the offence not exactly lighting it up early on in games dating back to the regular season, they really need the penalty kill to hold down the fort to avoid falling behind (or going down by more than a single goal). They’re a lot more aggressive on that unit now compared to when Michel Therrien was behind the bench and right now, that change is really paying dividends.