After failing to win consecutive games for the first half of the season, the Habs swept the week to extend their winning streak to five, the longest active streak in the NHL.
The Week That Was
Feb. 20: Canadiens 3, Islanders 2 (SO) – Good starts have been hard to come by for Montreal this season but they got off to one here as Jeff Petry scored just before the midway point of the first. That allowed the Canadiens to not chase the game and they play a lot better in those situations. After New York tied it early in the second on the power play, the Habs got the lead back late in the period. Unfortunately, they allowed the equalizer late but after an eventful overtime period that didn’t feature a single whistle, Montreal won the shootout, giving Andrew Hammond his first victory with the Canadiens.
Feb. 21: Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2 – Despite the fact the Habs were on a back-to-back, they came out with some jump and took advantage of an off night from Petr Mrazek at the other end. Three goals in the second period turned the game from a close one to a rout. Josh Anderson had a pair of goals while Rem Pitlick hit the double-digit mark in goals for the first time in his young NHL career.
Feb. 23: Canadiens 4, Sabres 0 – Montreal has had some challenges with Buffalo this season but not in this game. Nick Suzuki’s first of his two goals in the game early in the first set the tone early (his other goal was on a penalty shot) and while the Sabres picked up their shot volume as the game went on, the Habs were in control throughout, allowing Samuel Montembeault to get his first career NHL shutout.
Feb. 26: Canadiens 2, Senators 1 – Every now and then, Artturi Lehkonen becomes a difference-maker offensively and this was one of those games as he had both goals for the Habs. Hammond got the nod against his former team and was sharp with the only goal he allowed coming on the power play from Colin White who was making his season debut. It was more of a low-event contest compared to what we’ve seen under Martin St. Louis but something tells me he was fine with the outcome.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Josh Anderson (12)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (22)
Points: Nick Suzuki (33)
+/-: Sami Niku (+3)
PIMS: Michael Pezzetta (68)
Shots: Nick Suzuki (118)
News And Notes
– Paul Byron’s tough season on the injury front continued as he suffered an upper-body injury against Buffalo and has been placed on injured reserve. His placement was needed to free up a roster spot to activate Mathieu Perreault.
– Corey Schueneman cleared COVID protocol and since the Habs never took him off the active roster, they didn’t need to make a corresponding roster move. Joel Armia, who has been out for more than a week, also remains on the active roster so when he’s cleared to come back, they won’t have to free up a spot.
– Joel Edmundson and Jake Allen have resumed skating with Edmundson actually getting a full practice in which suggests he’s nearing a return. He’s someone that a roster spot will be needed for and the only waiver-exempt blueliner that’s up currently is Schueneman.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Anderson
Hoffman – Dauphin – Gallagher
Pitlick – Evans – Lehkonen
Pezzetta – Poehling – Perreault
Romanov – Chiarot
Kulak – Petry
Schueneman – Wideman
The Week Ahead
Mar. 1: at Winnipeg – The Jets have largely underwhelmed this season and find themselves out of the playoff hunt for the time being. Mark Scheifele is having a bit of a quiet year as has Blake Wheeler although he has come on as of late. Pierre-Luc Dubois is fitting in much better than he did last year and sits second on Winnipeg in goals with 21 while Kyle Connor has very quietly hit 30 already. (By comparison, Josh Anderson was the first Hab to hit 10 this past week.)
Mar. 3: at Calgary – While their lengthy winning streak came to an end recently at the hands of Vancouver, the Flames have been one of the top teams in the NHL in recent weeks with Tyler Toffoli only making their lineup that much deeper (he’s on their third line). Johnny Gaudreau is having a career year at the ideal time as he’s going to be a free agent this summer while Matthew Tkachuk is over a point per game for the first time as well and will be an RFA this summer. Neither of those players leads Calgary in goals, however. Instead, that title is held by Andrew Mangiapane (who, conveniently, also needs a new deal this summer).
Mar. 5: at Edmonton – The Oilers continue to largely be a one-line team and recent injuries to Jesse Puljujarvi and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins haven’t helped in that regard either while veterans Duncan Keith and Kris Russell are out on the back end as well. The team has played better since Dave Tippett was let go but they are still largely led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl while hoping for NHL-calibre goaltending on most nights.
Usually at the end of each month, we run a ballot for the three stars. However, since March projects to be a particularly busy month for the Habs when it comes to the trade front, I’d rather focus some more attention on that than the three stars. With that in mind, I’ll make the picks myself for February and we’ll go back to our usual format in March.
1st Star: Cole Caufield – There have been several players who have enjoyed the coaching change but Caufield has to be at the top of that list. He’s more aggressive with the puck on his stick and while his scoring run is partly due to simply being a streaky scorer that wasn’t going to hover around 2% all season, he has his confidence back and the Habs are a lot better when that happens.
Stats: 9 GP, 6 goals, 4 assists, 10 points, 2 PIMS, +5 rating, 28 shots, 17:15 ATOI
2nd Star: Samuel Montembeault – He struggled considerably in the first half of the season but since the coaching change, he has played considerably better. Part of that is the defence improving but Montembeault made several key stops and most importantly, limited the bad goals that were plaguing him early on.
Stats: 6 GP, 3-2-0 record, 1.99 GAA, .938 SV%, 1 SO
3rd Star: Nick Suzuki – Montreal’s top line has come to life this month and it’s not just because of Caufield. Suzuki is playing with more confidence as well and is starting to pick up some points again while he also very quietly impressed at the faceoff dot which earned him some extra minutes in late-game situations.
Stats: 9 GP, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points, 2 PIMS, +2 rating, 21 shots, 60.5% faceoffs, 21:14 ATOI
Honourable Mention: Jeff Petry – Is he back to the player he was last season? No, but Petry has shown signs of turning things around and that can only be good for the Habs. Either he ups his trade value and a move gets made or he gives the back end some stability down the stretch (and even if you’re rooting for losses, stability helps things from going off the rails as it did at the end of Dominique Ducharme’s tenure).
Stats: 9 GP, 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points, 6 PIMS, -2 rating, 14 shots, 21:19 ATOI
For anyone wondering for comparison, January’s 3 Stars results were 1) Artturi Lehkonen, 2) Jake Evans, 3) Tyler Toffoli, HM) Nick Suzuki