Say what you will about Montreal’s playoff chances but the Habs themselves aren’t giving up as they picked two of three games and gained a little ground in the postseason chase.
The Week That Was
Feb. 18: Red Wings 4, Canadiens 3 – The week started off on a brutal note. Despite holding a two-goal lead in the third period against the worst team in the league, they blew it. Andreas Athanasiou, who is on pace to have one of the worst plus/minus marks for forwards in NHL history, scored a pair of goals including the winner while the Habs could only muster up four shots in what they were thinking was a must-win game.
Feb. 20: Canadiens 4, Capitals 3 (OT) – While Alex Ovechkin managed to score in this one, it wasn’t goal 700 as that came in his next game. It was the other #8 that stole the show. Ben Chiarot scored early in the third period to give Montreal their first lead of the game and after they blew yet another third period lead, Chiarot also collected the game-winner early in overtime to snap the five-game losing streak.
Feb. 22: Canadiens 3, Senators 0 – This had the feel of a game that was over pretty quickly. Max Domi scored a pair in the first period and it was well in hand from there. Carey Price had one of his best efforts in recent weeks as his rebound control was sharp while he even had a bit of an edge. It was reminiscent of vintage Price, something they’ll need a lot of if they want to hang around the race.
Goals: Tomas Tatar (21)
Assists: Tomas Tatar (34)
Points: Tomas Tatar (55)
+/-: Phillip Danault (+15)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (41)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (206)
News And Notes
– A pair of players returned from injury. One was expected, the other was a big surprise. Paul Byron made his return after a lengthy absence and, quite frankly, looked like the Byron of old rather than the one that struggled mightily early in the year. The unexpected return was Shea Weber who received word that he wouldn’t do any further damage to his ankle and has decided to play through his sprain.
– Victor Mete (lower body) and Xavier Ouellet (upper body) were both injured which resulted in the recalls of Christian Folin and Karl Alzner from Laval. Both Mete and Ouellet were sent back for evaluation and there is no timetable for their returns.
– It has been a struggle for Jonathan Drouin since he returned to the lineup. Over that span (seven games), he has zero points, a -9 rating, and has more penalty minutes (8) than shots on goal (6).
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Suzuki – Armia
Byron – Domi – Kovalchuk
Lehkonen – Thompson – Cousins
Chiarot – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Alzner – Folin
The Week Ahead
Feb. 25: vs Vancouver – The Canucks are among the teams in a heated battle for a top-three spot in the Pacific Division. They made an early move to get Tyler Toffoli to add to their offence but the enthusiasm was short-lived as Brock Boeser, who was originally supposed to miss three weeks, will now miss eight. Offseason acquisition J.T. Miller has taken over the team lead in scoring from Elias Pettersson.
Feb. 27: vs New York (R): The Rangers have really come on as of late and have actually played their way back into having a faint shot at a playoff spot. Igor Shesterkin has very quickly taken over the number one job while big offseason acquisition Artemi Panarin sits fourth in league scoring. New York will be in the first half of a back-to-back for this game.
Feb. 29: vs Carolina – They were just involved in quite the memorable game as both James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were injured which forced them to play the better part of half the game with an emergency goalie…and won…against Toronto, the team the Habs are at least saying they’re trying to catch. On top of that, they lost Brett Pesce in that game while Dougie Hamilton is injured. They could be a team to watch for by the deadline and if they don’t make any moves of note, this might not be the worst time to be playing them.
Montreal got in on the early trading festivities when the defence market really started to move on Tuesday when they flipped Marco Scandella to St. Louis for a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2021 fourth-rounder (though I wouldn’t put the odds of them re-signing Scandella or making the Western Conference Final particularly high). Nevertheless, this was a nice move by Marc Bergevin considering that they only paid a fourth-round pick to get him.
I do, however, want to point out that for those who are saying the Habs don’t want to spend, they paid a fairly high price in terms of actual dollars to upgrade 50 or so spots in the draft. Scandella carries a $4.75 million salary. He was on the roster for 46 days which means they paid $1.1747 million in salary for him.
They also retained 50% of his cap hit and salary in the move which was made 47 days before the end of the season. That’s another $600,000 and change.
All in all, they spent over $1.75 million in actual cash to go from an early-to-mid fourth-round pick to a late second-rounder while getting 20 somewhat reasonable games out of him. That’s a pretty big price to pay to upgrade that pick. Montreal is going to finish well below the Upper Limit once again this season but this is a move where they put that cap space to good use even if hardly anyone noticed.