The Habs had some improved stretches over the past week, showing strong flashes against each of their three opponents. However, they couldn’t sustain it for long periods of time and the end result was another losing week as they picked up just a single win in three games.
The Week That Was
Nov. 2: Canadiens 3, Red Wings 0 – The week got off to a good start for the Habs as Nick Suzuki and Josh Anderson scored before the midway mark of the first, giving them a rare early lead and they didn’t take their foot off the gas, pressuring the Red Wings for most of the night. Jake Allen was relatively untested, making this shutout much easier than the one he had the week before in San Jose.
Nov. 4: Islanders 6, Canadiens 2 – Surely, this would be the game where Montreal would string together two good efforts in a row, right? Nope. The level of play in the game isn’t as lopsided as that score would make it seem but they played right into New York’s hands in terms of settling for perimeter play which is exactly how they like it. Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli scored late to make the score slightly more respectable while Allen had a night to forget.
Nov. 6: Golden Knights 5, Canadiens 2 – The Habs got off to a fantastic start, outshooting Vegas 20-1 in the first period while scoring twice. It looked like they were well on their way to a convincing victory and then the penalty kill reared its ugly head. Montreal’s continued ineptitude on that front allowed the Golden Knights – who hadn’t scored with the man advantage all season long – to score twice on the power play in the second, sandwiching another goal to give Vegas a lead in a game where they had been dominated. They added a pair of empty-netters to seal the game, an outcome few expected after how good the Habs were at the start; having that type of dominance at the beginning only to lose is something we don’t see very often.
Goals: Mike Hoffman (4)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (9)
Points: Nick Suzuki (12)
+/-: Niku/Perreault (+3)
PIMS: Cedric Paquette (23)
Shots: Josh Anderson (36)
News And Notes
– Jonathan Drouin left Tuesday’s game after getting hit with the puck in the face off a Montreal point shot. He’s listed as day-to-day and was considered a game-time decision Saturday so he’s nearing a return.
– Joel Edmundson and Paul Byron have both resumed skating as they get closer to returning from their injuries. The Canadiens are carrying a full roster right now so demotions will need to be made when they return.
– Carey Price will rejoin the Habs on Monday from the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. That said, he’s still likely to be a few weeks away from returning; head coach Dominique Ducharme didn’t rule out the possibility of a short conditioning stint with Laval to help get him ready to return either.
– Montreal is now tied for the league lead in empty-net goals allowed with six (in ten losses). This feels like a good spot to mention that it generally helps to pull the goalie when the team has control of the puck, a strategy that Ducharme has failed to figure out multiple times now, including on Saturday.
Last Game’s Lines:
Toffoli – Suzuki – Gallagher
Hoffman- Evans – Anderson
Lehkonen – Dvorak – Armia
Pezzetta – Paquette – Belzile
Chiarot – Petry
Kulak – Savard
Romanov – Wideman
The Week Ahead
Nov. 9: vs Los Angeles – Montreal will catch the Kings on the back half of a back-to-back for this one which can’t hurt their chances at least. Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo continue to be the only two forwards to put up points consistently while Phillip Danault is still sitting on one for the season. They just got Andreas Athanasiou back although Drew Doughty and Sean Walker, their two top right-shot defenders, will both miss this one.
Nov. 11: vs Calgary – The Flames always seem to give the Habs fits as Montreal struggles against structured teams and Calgary has been exactly that this season, losing only once in regulation all season long. Johnny Gaudreau is off to a good start in his contract year with 14 points, tied with Elias Lindholm for the team lead in scoring. Jacob Markstrom has been stellar in goal, posting a .942 SV% in his first nine games.
Nov. 13: at Detroit – Yes, them again for the third week in a row. Tyler Bertuzzi will be able to play in this one after sitting out the two in Montreal while Dylan Larkin has also returned after missing three straight for personal reasons. Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are rookies that are off to very strong starts to their NHL careers and sit behind only Bertuzzi in team scoring.
Nov. 14: at Boston – It has been a bit of an odd start for the Bruins who have had a lighter schedule than most and haven’t been as dangerous offensively as it might seem with a roster featuring Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, and Patrice Bergeron. Linus Ullmark is their new veteran goalie, taking over from Tuukka Rask who isn’t expected to sign with Boston until later in the season when he has recovered from his injury.
Among the many questionable decisions from Montreal’s coaching staff (a list that grows much quicker than I’d prefer) is the usage of Adam Brooks. Specifically, the lack of usage. Centre depth is an issue to the point where Jonathan Drouin has lined up down the middle at times. Jake Evans has played hurt. Wouldn’t it behoove them to have another player that can play centre in the lineup more often? That’d be Brooks.
Right now, Brooks finds himself behind Alex Belzile on the depth chart, a player who no one objectively thinks has a full-time NHL future. I’m a bigger advocate for Belzile than just about anyone but he’s a guy that should be up when you’re out of spare forwards and there are a few injuries, not basically the first guy up that jumps ahead of others on the depth chart when he gets there. Brooks is also behind Michael Pezzetta who was a regular healthy scratch in the minors last year although he’s off to a nice start and at least brings a different element. Not my preference to have Brooks out of the lineup over him but I can understand that. He’s also stuck behind Cedric Paquette who has demonstrated a better ability of taking penalties than killing them, not a good skill set on any team. Brooks can’t do much worse than that.
When you’re not getting anything from them, why not try Brooks? I’m not saying he’s a can’t-miss player but don’t they need to actually use him more than once every few games to see if he’s worthy of holding down the roster spot he currently has? If they’ve decided that he’s worth having on the roster, then cut bait and move on. One of the benefits of being at the bottom is being at the top of the waiver priority list (and no, teams don’t get sent to the back once they claim someone, that’s a fallacy that many believe for some reason); there will be opportunities to cycle in other players until they find one they can use if it comes to that. But to make that determination, they have to actually give Brooks a shot first. That time has more than come and with Byron getting closer to returning plus Mathieu Perreault, it’s time to give Brooks a real look now.