The Habs had big leads in all three of their games this past week but were still only able to pick up just a single win on home ice as they slim playoff hopes fell even further.
The Week That Was
Feb. 25: Canucks 4, Canadiens 3 (OT) – The Habs got off to a great start in this one as Paul Byron and Shea Weber scored before the game was eight minutes old. And then it went downhill. Vancouver tied it up in the second period and once again in the third after Jordan Weal scored early in the third period. The game went to overtime where Max Domi put on a clinic of what not to do in the defensive zone at three-on-three as multiple missed coverages by him helped lead to Tyler Toffoli picking up the winner.
Feb. 27: Rangers 5, Canadiens 2 – Once again, Montreal got off to a good start and had a two-goal lead with three minutes to go in the second period. Evidently, New York had the Habs right where they wanted them. They scored late in the period and popped four more in the back half of the third period to turn what should have been a game well in hand for the home side to a rout for the visitors.
Feb. 29: Canadiens 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT) – Guess how this one starts? Montreal gets off to a good start (a three-goal lead this time) before proceeding to blow it in the third period. This one at least had a bit of a happier ending as Jeff Petry scored on an overtime breakaway to get the win but it never should have come to that. Charlie Lindgren picked up the victory in a rare appearance for him.
Goals: Tomas Tatar (22)
Assists: Tomas Tatar (39)
Points: Tomas Tatar (61)
+/-: Phillip Danault (+19)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (43)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (217)
News And Notes
– Victor Mete’s season has come to an end as he’ll miss the next two months due to a fractured foot. Meanwhile, Xavier Ouellet has recovered from his concussion. He was papered back to Laval and then recalled, marking the third of Montreal’s four allowable non-emergency recalls (Karl Alzner’s was converted to that status when Ouellet was activated while Jake Evans was the first one).
– Jonathan Drouin’s troublesome lower-body injury continues to act up which caused him to miss the last two games. Charles Hudon was recalled on an emergency basis from Laval.
– Tomas Tatar has reached a new career best in points as he’s up to 61 and all of a sudden, he has a shot at a 70-point season. He still has a bit of work to do to beat his career high in goals though. He had 29 in 2014-15 and currently sits at 22.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Suzuki – Armia
Byron – Domi – Weal
Hudon – Evans – Weise
Chiarot – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Ouellet – Folin
The Week Ahead
Mar. 3: at NY Islanders – In what will be Montreal’s final game at Barclays Center (it was announced Saturday that after March 22nd, all of their games will be played at Nassau Coliseum until their new arena is ready), the Habs will begin a week-long road trip. New York has struggled as of late as they’ve dropped six of their last eight which prompted them to add Canadiens-killer Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the trade deadline.
Mar. 5: at Tampa Bay – The Lightning got hit with some tough injury news on Saturday when it was announced that Steven Stamkos will miss the rest of the regular season (and likely at least part of the first round) with a core muscle injury. They did get some additions at the trade deadline though as they paid a high price to bring in Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow which should help a little bit. They’ve been struggling as of late and just snapped a season-long four-game losing streak on Saturday.
Mar. 7: at Florida – While the Habs won’t be in the mix for a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, they can really affect the race as the Panthers are on the outside looking in at third-place Toronto. Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov continue to lead the way offensively while Carey Price has outperformed Sergei Bobrovsky in the battle of goalies with cap hits of $10 million or more. The Panthers were surprise sellers at the deadline as they offloaded Vincent Trocheck to Carolina for a pair of depth pieces (including Erik Haula) and a pair of second-tier prospects.
Paul Byron’s return a couple of weeks back largely flew under the radar, likely due to the general frustration that surrounds the struggles the Habs have had all season. But him coming back is particularly noteworthy.
Before being shut down, he looked considerably slower than before and as a result, his effectiveness was largely limited. However, since returning, he looks like the old Byron. The speed and energy are there and he has been one of Montreal’s most effective players in that stretch.
To be fair, part of that is the fact that he’s much more rested than pretty much everyone else. Being off three months will do that. It could just be the rest is helping and he’ll wear down in a week or two, much like Ilya Kovalchuk did after his extended rest. But if it isn’t and he’s now back to being the usual Byron, that will certainly provide some cause for optimism heading into next season. While on the surface it seems like he plays a minimal role, he seems to be an important cog for the Habs. And even if they were considering moving him, it’d be a lot easier to do so if he plays well over the next five weeks and ends the season on a high note.
Compelling storylines down the stretch are going to be few and far between. Byron’s play just might be one of the more interesting ones.