The Habs haven’t been known from their offensive production from their back end in recent years but Montreal’s defence picked up seven goals this past week to help the team pick up five of a possible six points.
The Week That Was
Nov. 5: Canadiens 5, Bruins 4 – With Carey Price and Tuukka Rask between the pipes, this had the potential to be a low-scoring affair. Instead, both goalies allowed multiple clunkers which made for a lot of momentum swings. Victor Mete scored twice while Ben Chiarot had the winner in Claude Julien’s 1,200th career game. However, Boston had a goal called back on an offside call in the third period, one that has brought up some discussion around the league about the offside rule.
Nov. 7: Flyers 3, Canadiens 2 (OT) – There are some nights where it feels like the Habs just don’t have it. This was one of those. Price was hung out to dry in the early going and did quite well to keep it close. Montreal didn’t give up and eventually tied it up on goals from Chiarot and Shea Weber. However, Price allowed a tough one to Sean Couturier early in OT. If nothing else, the Habs did well shorthanded, killing off all six Philadelphia opportunities in the losing effort.
Nov. 9: Canadiens 3, Kings 2 – Weber had been sitting at 99 power play goals heading into the season and he finally picked up his 100th after basically one-timing his previously-blocked shot out of the air into the net from the faceoff dot. He wasted little time picking up his 101st later in the first period, one that saw Nate Thompson score against his former team as well. That was all the offence that Montreal needed but a late push from Los Angeles made it a pretty close one in the end.
Goals: Drouin/Gallagher (7)
Assists: Tomas Tatar (9)
Points: Jonathan Drouin (15)
+/-: Victor Mete (+8)
PIMS: Tomas Tatar (20)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (62)
News And Notes
– The Habs have fared well against teams that are currently holding down a playoff spot as they’ve yet to lose in regulation to one (7-0-2 record).
– With two more minor penalties, Tomas Tatar is now only one behind Boston’s Brad Marchand for the league lead among forwards. Interestingly, all but one of his ten minors have come on the road.
– Although it seems like Carey Price is off to a slow start, he’s actually faring better now than at this point a year ago. He has a 2.71 GAA and a .914 SV% through his first 14 starts this season. At that same mark in 2018-19, he was at 2.92 and .904 respectively.
Last Game’s Lines:
Drouin – Danault – Gallagher
Bryon – Domi – Armia
Tatar – Suzuki – Lehkonen
Poehling – Thompson – Cousins
Mete – Weber
Chiarot – Petry
Kulak – Fleury
The Week Ahead
Nov. 12: vs Columbus – The Blue Jackets have struggled out of the gate this season which shouldn’t come as much surprise considering who they lost over the offseason. They sit last in the league in goals per game and are missing a pair of defencemen in Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara. However, the Habs haven’t often taken care of business in these easier games so they shouldn’t be overconfident heading into this one.
Nov. 15: at Washington – The Capitals are averaging over four goals per game to lead the league in the early going. John Carlson is on pace for a 128-point season which is crazy for a defenceman while Jakub Vrana and former Hab Lars Eller are providing them with some crucial secondary scoring as well. Keith Kinkaid will likely get this start and he’s going to be tested early and often.
Nov. 16: vs New Jersey – Heading into the season, the Devils were a trendy pick to push for a playoff spot (I know they were at the top of my list of bounce back teams in the East). That hasn’t happened. Their goaltending has struggled mightily while their big offseason pickups haven’t done much. P.K. Subban has just five points so far, Wayne Simmonds has just one goal, and Nikita Gusev has already been a healthy scratch three times. Even Taylor Hall, the subject of frequent free agent speculation already, is struggling with just two goals on the year.
With Jesperi Kotkaniemi appearing to be getting closer to a return, there already has been plenty of discussion about who should be sent down when he returns. Should Mike Reilly or Christian Folin be waived to drop down to seven defencemen? What about Jordan Weal who has lost a hold on a roster spot? (I’d like to see him get back in the lineup personally…) Should Kotkaniemi himself go down?
I have a different suggestion. How about sending down the player that was recalled to take his place in Ryan Poehling? He has been okay but it’s pretty clear that Claude Julien doesn’t trust him to play more than spot minutes at the moment. If you think Kotkaniemi isn’t playing enough, consider the fact he’s averaging four minutes more a night than Poehling. Julien may think Poehling fits in better in the NHL than the AHL but his actions in terms of deployment suggest otherwise.
Has Poehling held his own? Sure. Has he done enough to unseat an established player from his spot on the roster? Not at all (not even close). Some seem to want to keep him up to have him not go through having to go through the disappointment of going back to the minors again. He’s 21 and that’s a common development path; much better players than him have gone down before and will go down in the future. It’s not going to kill him to spend more time down there. He’d also get to play a whole lot more than he is now and long-term, that’s a lot better for his development. If Kotkaniemi comes back and continues to struggle for a couple of weeks, then look at making that swap. But any proposal that has Poehling hanging around the fringes of the roster (and playing out of position even) can’t be the right one. What he needs more than anything is playing time in offensive situations. He’s not getting that in Montreal so he needs to get it in Laval instead.