The month of March got off to a good start for the Habs as they picked up five of six points. However, the biggest story of the past week once again came on the coaching front with another change being made.
The Week That Was
Mar. 2: Canadiens 3, Senators 1 – The power play has been an area of focus under the new coaching staff and it was the difference-maker in this one. Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring with the man advantage and drew a double-minor just after he put the puck into the net. Jeff Petry scored on the back end of that power play and that was enough to make the difference as Carey Price had a strong performance (that still did nothing to change what was coming).
Mar. 4: Jets 4, Canadiens 3 (OT) – While the end result was predictable once the game went to overtime, the fact it got that far was impressive. The Habs battled back from a two-goal deficit in the second period and then tied it up again late when Corey Perry had a shot deflect off of him and in. Montreal actually showed some signs of life in the extra frame but once again, botched defensive zone coverage came back to bite them as a miscommunication between Petry and Joel Armia (one wanted to switch and one didn’t) led to an opening for Pierre-Luc Dubois to pot the winner.
Mar. 6: Canadiens 7, Jets 1 – The goaltending was not pretty for Winnipeg in this one as several bad goals were allowed while Montreal benefited from some early puck luck as well. Not that I’m complaining – they didn’t have much of it in recent weeks – but I’m not sure this is the game to get the offence back on track but rather just taking advantage of some good bounces and poor goaltending.
Goals: Tyler Toffoli (15)
Assists: Drouin/Petry (14)
Points: Jeff Petry (22)
+/-: Joel Edmundson (+22)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (39)
Shots: Gallagher/Toffoli (75)
News And Notes
– With the team heading out West meaning that the taxi squad will come along with them, the Habs brought up Xavier Ouellet and Laurent Dauphin from Laval. They’ve been funnelling depth guys from the Rocket back and forth to meet minimum requirements while they’ve been at home but now, they needed to call someone up they’d actually be comfortable using in a pinch.
– One of the big concerns heading into the season was Corey Perry’s propensity for untimely penalties. He has done a nice job of avoiding those though as he has taken just two minors in his 16 games this season.
– Going back to last season, Jonathan Drouin has just two goals over his last 37 regular season games (three in 47 if you include the bubble). While he has definitely played better this year, the Habs still need him to put the puck in the net with more regularity.
– Josh Anderson was able to return to the lineup in the second game against Winnipeg, meaning he only missed basically a week with his lower-body injury.
Last Game’s Lines:
Drouin – Suzuki – Armia
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Toffoli – Kotkaniemi – Anderson
Byron – Evans – Perry
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Kulak – Romanov
The Week Ahead
Mar. 8, 10: at Vancouver – The Canucks are a much-improved team from the one that the Habs had their way with earlier in the season. The goaltending is starting to come around while they remain one of the top-scoring teams in the league. Elias Pettersson has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury but should be back for at least one of these games. Worth noting, the game on the 10th is a rare 11 PM EST start time. This is because Sportsnet’s national game is an 8 PM start and the Canucks having a regional contract with Sportsnet; that way, the Edmonton-Ottawa game will be done before this one starts.
Mar. 11, 13: at Calgary – To add insult to dumb scheduling, Montreal gets a game less than 24 hours after the Vancouver one with travel and losing two hours from changing time zones. That grumbling aside, these games will feature the return of Darryl Sutter behind the bench, a move hardly anyone expected to see even with Geoff Ward seemingly being in some jeopardy. There will be some changes from the version of the Flames that play on Sunday and then they are off until they start this two-game set so it’s not worth getting into what things look like now as it’ll be different by then. Jacob Markstrom has returned which is great news for them and bad news for everyone else in the division.
The Stephane Waite dismissal was the big news story of the week off the ice for the Habs for two reasons – the first being that it happened and the second being how it happened.
I have no issue with the first part. Honestly, it was the first move they should have made when it came to the coaching changes. Waite has done great things with Carey Price but very little of that has been in the past few years. A fresh voice is needed at some point and with Price struggling with several fundamentals, this was more than the right time to do something. I like Sean Burke getting the goalie coach role although I wouldn’t be shocked if that’s just for the rest of the season before moving back to the administrative side that a Director of Goaltending typically has, especially with Burke’s goal of becoming a GM. The Habs need an improved version of Price and I think Burke can help get him there for the second half once he finishes his quarantine.
The second part concerns me a bit. I get that by the third period Waite’s in-game work was done for the night but optically speaking, calling him in early the next day and having him clean out his things is the more traditional approach and wouldn’t have been quite the shock that the in-game change was. Marc Bergevin is trying to be more decisive this year with his changes which is fine but adhering to standard respected practices shouldn’t be too much to ask. Is handling it the way he did a terrible thing? No, but I think it could have been handled a bit more respectfully. Either way, the decision to make the change – more important than how it was made – was certainly the correct one.