While it was a successful week in the standings for the Habs with a pair of victories in three games, it still ended on a disappointing note following another loss to Detroit as the offence continues to sputter.
The Week That Was
Dec. 10: Canadiens 4, Penguins 1 – The Habs were facing Tristan Jarry who was in the midst of an impressive shutout streak heading into this one. Pittsburgh scored early on but Montreal managed to get a trio of goals in the second period to allow them to take control of the game before Brendan Gallagher picked up an empty netter to seal the deal.
Dec. 11: Canadiens 3, Senators 2 (OT) – For a while, this looked like it was going to be a case of deja vu. The Habs were the better team by a significant margin early on but couldn’t get much past Anders Nilsson in the first two periods aside from a Nick Cousins power play marker. A Tomas Tatar goal doubled that advantage early in the third but Ottawa came back to score a pair on Cayden Primeau, sending the game to overtime. For once, Montreal came out of the extra session victorious as Ben Chiarot (whose presence out there was still somewhat surprising) picked up the winner.
Dec. 14: Red Wings 2, Canadiens 1 – Jonathan Bernier hasn’t had many good games against the Habs over his career but this was one of them. It took more than 59 minutes to beat him and Detroit had just enough production in a game where they didn’t generate much of an attack to squeak out the win.
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (14)
Assists: Phillip Danault (18)
Points: Tomas Tatar (29)
+/-: Shea Weber (+11)
PIMS: Tomas Tatar (24)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (126)
News And Notes
– While Paul Byron returned to practice on Friday, the Habs effectively ruled him out until the Christmas break as he did not accompany them on their four-game road trip. However, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Victor Mete both travelled with the team which suggests they could be back at some point.
– Following Saturday’s game, Otto Leskinen was assigned to Laval while Lukas Vejdemo was recalled. Even with the move, the Habs still have seven healthy defenders on their roster with Christian Folin returning from his two-week conditioning stint earlier in the week.
– Max Domi has only scored in one of Montreal’s last 20 games (a two-goal effort against the Rangers). His point-per-game average on the season (0.61) is only higher than his final season in Arizona (0.55).
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Domi – Armia
Cousins – Suzuki – Weal
Poehling – Thompson – Barber
Chiarot – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Leskinen – Fleury
The Week Ahead
Dec. 17: at Vancouver – The Canucks have been surprisingly competitive this season and very quietly are in the top-ten in goals scored. J.T. Miller is producing at a career rate in his first season with the team while Elias Pettersson hasn’t missed a beat in his sophomore campaign. The Habs will get their first look at Jordie Benn after he spurned their offer to sign for the same price with Vancouver.
Dec. 19: at Calgary – Things have been looking up for the Flames following the Bill Peters fiasco as they’re 6-1 since the coaching change. After having a dominant top line a year ago, the trio of Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Elias Lindholm have all regressed offensively but their secondary scoring has picked up the slack. Even Milan Lucic has got in on the fun with three goals in his last six games (giving him a grand total of three on the season).
Dec. 21: at Edmonton – Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to dominate but they haven’t had a lot of support behind them. They were getting good goaltending early on in the season but that has been an issue as of late; they’ve allowed 25 in their past six games.
While Otto Leskinen’s stint with the big club wasn’t exactly great (or even okay), I can only fault him so much. There was no reason at all for him to be recalled in the first place. He wasn’t exactly dominating in Laval; instead, he was holding his own. That’s fine for a rookie but not exactly NHL recall material. Asking someone who is only holding his own in the minors to try to do so in the NHL is asking for trouble and wouldn’t you know it, he didn’t exactly fare particularly well.
Not all is lost though. Give him another year or so (this is year one of a two-year deal) and some more time adapting to the North American style of play and there may still be something there to work with. Now at least he knows what to expect in the NHL and, more importantly, the Canadiens have a better idea of what he can and can’t provide at the moment. In particular, they know he isn’t exactly close to being ready. Lesson learned.