After another extended break due to attendance restrictions in Quebec, the Habs were back in action this past week as they reached the midway point of their now ten-game road trip. While they got some reinforcements back, the end results were pretty much the same.
The Week That Was
Jan. 12: Bruins 5, Canadiens 1 – In the first half of the first period, Montreal had their skating legs but once Boston scored, it went downhill quickly. Brad Marchand scored twice in 15 seconds and Jake Allen didn’t make it through the first period due to injury; Samuel Montembeault was quickly greeted by another goal before the end of the first. Marchand scored a shorthanded goal early in the second for the hat trick and while Michael Pezzetta got that one back, that’s as close as Montreal got.
Jan. 13: Blackhawks 3, Canadiens 2 (OT) – This game won’t go down as one of the more fascinating ones of the season but after an ugly first period, the Habs were much better and actually picked up the lead late in the second on a power play goal (yes, they actually scored one with the man advantage) from Mike Hoffman. However, they couldn’t hold it and Patrick Kane’s power play marker early in the third tied it up to end the scoring in regulation. Montreal tried the usual rope-a-dope strategy in overtime and as soon as Chicago got control, they came down and scored, albeit in controversial fashion as some would argue that the play was offside and the puck crossed the line after the net was dislodged. Either way, the Blackhawks skated away with the extra point.
Goals: Anderson/Suzuki (7)
Assists: Suzuki/Toffoli (12)
Points: Nick Suzuki (19)
+/-: Sami Niku (+3)
PIMS: Michael Pezzetta (37)
Shots: Nick Suzuki (84)
News And Notes
– Most of Montreal’s players have exited COVID protocol but not all will be able to join the team due to cross-border restrictions which remain at 14 days. Officially, Kale Clague, Paul Byron, and Alex Belzile remain in COVID protocol but Clague already has rejoined the team so that’s just a matter of filing the paperwork to add him, perhaps as soon as Monday.
– Josh Anderson appears to be set to return to the lineup a little earlier than expected. Montreal is carrying a full taxi squad but only 12 forwards on the active roster right now so they won’t need to make a move to activate him. Tyler Toffoli could be back as well later in the road trip.
– Chris Wideman received a one-game suspension for head-butting Boston’s Erik Haula in a scrum in the third period of Wednesday’s game.
– Montreal added Rem Pitlick off waivers from Minnesota as they look to try to add a bit more depth with trades of some regulars expected at some point.
– Jake Allen has been placed on IR so Cayden Primeau is up on the active roster and should get a game or two on the rest of the trip.
Last Game’s Lines:
Hoffman – Suzuki – Evans
Pitlick – Dvorak – Drouin
Lehkonen – Poehling – Caufield
Pezzetta – Dauphin – Armia
Chiarot – Savard
Kulak – Petry
Romanov – Schueneman
The Week Ahead
Jan. 17: at Arizona – Off the ice, two fanbases are seeing this as the ultimate tank versus tank game. On the ice, however, both teams are looking at this as a game they might have a shot at winning which makes for some interesting motivation. Jakob Chychrun has been out for more than a month due to COVID while Shayne Gostisbehere has had a nice rebound season. Karel Vejmelka has become their starter and he has stolen some games for the Coyotes this season including one recently against Toronto.
Jan. 18: at Dallas – Things aren’t looking too hot in Dallas right now…aside from the weather, of course. John Klingberg seems to be heading out the door soon after extension talks went nowhere and beyond their top line (which doesn’t have Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn on it as both have struggled mightily this season), they’re struggling to score. Braden Holtby is currently in COVID protocol but could be back in time for this one and is in the middle of a nice bounce-back season after a tough year in Vancouver.
Jan. 20: at Vegas – The Golden Knights have been dealing with some COVID-related shutdowns of their own and have been off for the last week. Jack Eichel likely won’t be ready to return for this one while Max Pacioretty is likely heading for LTIR once Alec Martinez has cleared COVID protocol (he has recovered from his early-season injury that had him on LTIR). Chandler Stephenson is having a breakout season, hovering near the point per game mark, something no one saw coming when they picked him up for next to nothing a few years ago.
Jan. 22: at Colorado – Nazem Kadri continues to have the season of his life as he is outscoring the likes of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Cale Makar by a considerable margin. Despite a dominant attack, their goaltending has been an issue all season (and no, they don’t have any cap space before anyone gets any trade ideas involving Carey Price). Bowen Byram is currently on a leave of absence as he battles symptoms from a previous concussion; he has missed nearly half the year with concussion trouble.
Anyone who has read this column in the past knows I’m not a big fan of the All-Star Game. Most of the players don’t want to go and the type of hockey that’s played doesn’t exactly do anything to attract new fans to the sport. But sponsors want it and that drives up revenues and so even in a season like this where hardly anyone wants it, it’s still on the schedule.
The double-whammy for the Habs between having to play some more back-to-backs to accommodate the All-Star break is that Nick Suzuki got selected. Don’t get me wrong, since every team has to have someone named (something to do with fan interest even though the NHL fails to read the pulse of the fans who really don’t want that rule in place), Suzuki was the logical choice. But from an organizational perspective, they had to be hoping for pretty much anyone else to make it.
For starters, it locks in an ‘A’ bonus of $212,500. The money is one thing but the Habs are in LTIR which means they won’t bank any cap space. That means that his selection to this HRR-growing event is going to cost the Canadiens $212,500 off next year’s salary cap via a bonus overage penalty. The other is that if there’s one player that Montreal would want to get the extra rest, it’s Suzuki. With how much he has had to play this season and the fact he’s in his first full 82-game NHL campaign, the break would’ve been great for him.
The NHL has gotten so much wrong with the handling of the All-Star Game. Too bad they couldn’t have continued that trend and not picked Suzuki.