Things were looking up for Montreal with a pair of strong home wins but a collapse on the road in Toronto ended the week on a sour note.
The Week That Was
Feb. 19: Canadiens 3, Blue Jackets 2 – Columbus had been playing quite well heading into this game while the Habs were coming off a tough outing in Florida so expectations weren’t overly high. However, the Habs bounced back with a quick start as they scored twice in the first. They later blew the lead before Tomas Tatar potted the winner with less than seven minutes left in regulation. Montreal caught a break in this one with Artemi Panarin missing the game due to illness, something that John Tortorella described with quite the detail.
Feb. 21: Canadiens 5, Flyers 1 – This one was over in a hurry. The Canadiens popped three quick ones on Carter Hart which saw him get yanked just past the midway point of the first period. It got to 5-0 before the Habs took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half of the game.
Feb. 23: Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 3 – The Habs got off to a great start with three goals in the first period and things were looking up. However, the penalty kill let them down in the second, allowing a pair of power play goals while a lucky bounce gave William Nylander the tying goal in the third. Unfortunately, things got even worse as with less than two minutes left in regulation, a poor clearing attempt from Phillip Danault eventually found its way past Carey Price before the team allowed a pair of empty-netters.
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (26)
Assists: Max Domi (34)
Points: Max Domi (54)
+/-: Danault/Mete (+15)
PIMS: Max Domi (76)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (224)
News And Notes
– Paul Byron’s arm injury wasn’t anywhere as significant as it looked like based on his reaction to it a couple of weeks ago as he returned to the lineup on Tuesday against Columbus. That means that Dale Weise was returned to Laval to make room for him on the roster (though he’ll likely be back shortly with the roster size restriction about to be lifted).
– Nate Thompson’s 17:21 against the Blue Jackets seemed quite high but he actually played more than that three times with Los Angeles this season despite spending most of the year on their fourth line as well.
– Jeff Petry has actually played more than Shea Weber in each of the last three games. That has been a rare occurrence when both are in the lineup so the fact that it has happened three times in a row plus Weber missing a practice recently makes me wonder if he’s playing through something at the moment.
The Week Ahead
Feb. 25: at New Jersey – The Habs won’t get much of a break after the trade deadline passes as they’ll be in action just four hours later. The Devils have presented Montreal with some challenges in recent years but Taylor Hall remains out and the team is expected to sell off a couple more pieces by the deadline. This is one that the Canadiens need to get.
Feb. 26: at Detroit – It’ll be interesting to see if Filip Zadina is still up with the Red Wings for this one or whether his NHL debut is a one-off before going back to the minors for now. That would present an interesting matchup between Montreal’s actual pick in Jesperi Kotkaniemi and who some were expecting them to take in Zadina. Detroit is another team in sell mode and could be down a couple of core players by the deadline so this is another one the Habs need to take advantage of.
Mar. 1: at New York (R) – The Rangers are another team that’s squarely out of the playoffs but they’ve played relatively well as of late, even after sitting their tradable assets over the weekend. Expect New York to ice a young lineup with quite a few players that are part of their immediate future and those teams tend to pull off some upsets down the stretch.
Mar. 2: vs Pittsburgh – The Habs get one quick reprieve at home before heading out West and it’s against one of the teams they’re going to be battling with for a Wild Card spot. Their big three up front are all averaging at least a point per game while Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang are hovering around that mark as well. They’ve struggled to keep the puck out of the net and that’s where Montreal will need to take advantage.
After looking at which Montreal blueliners (plus a comment on Antti Niemi) could be on the move by the trade deadline, let’s shift the focus to some forwards that have been in recent speculation.
Charles Hudon: 60% – I see no point in keeping him as he probably won’t be qualified over the summer due to his arbitration eligibility (just like Daniel Carr). Get what you can for him, be it a player that’s better suited for the fourth line or a draft pick (that could be flipped for a better fit). It’s clear he has no real future with the Habs so it’s time to move on for both sides.
Matthew Peca: 20% – I know he hasn’t played a ton lately but I think the Habs still like him. The fact he can play centre is a bonus as he’s basically the emergency fill-in at the moment. Unless they trade for another centre, I can see them wanting to keep him around as his speed is certainly an asset. He’s an expensive depth player in terms of his cap hit but it’s one they can afford for now at least.
Artturi Lehkonen: 5% – He seems to be the popular pick to toss in trade proposals but it would take a lot to move him. The coaching staff loves his defensive abilities and it’s telling that he was picked to wear an ‘A’ earlier in the season when Shea Weber was out. He may not really be part of the core but I suspect Montreal would like to keep him around long-term.
Beyond Hudon and Peca, the odds of a forward moving at this time are low. Claude Julien has said that they don’t really want to shake things up so if they do anything here, it’s probably going to be on the depth side of things. If Marc Bergevin swings a deal of note, it will be to add to the current core, not subtract from it.