It was a busy week both on and off the ice for the Habs as their struggles led to a coaching change and a big trade up front. However, while Montreal has played better since that time, it hasn’t resulted in any on-ice success as four more losses this week extended their current slide to ten games.
The Week That Was
Feb. 8: Devils 7, Canadiens 1 – After a long break, the hope was that Montreal would at least look competitive (no matter where you are on the tanking spectrum, losing by five or more a night isn’t good for business). That didn’t happen. They allowed a goal less than five minutes in and things spiraled from there, even with Brett Kulak bringing it back to a one-goal game in the second period before the Devils popped five unanswered as the final straw in the Dominique Ducharme era.
Feb. 10: Capitals 5, Canadiens 2 – Don’t let the score fool you. The Habs actually played quite well this game. Well, except for Cayden Primeau who had another tough night at the office. About the only highlight for him is that he managed to not allow a goal in the first five minutes…by four seconds. Meanwhile, Montreal pushed hard in the final 40 minutes and fired 44 shots on goal for the game but they were down too much to pull off the comeback.
Feb. 12: Blue Jackets 2, Canadiens 1 – Samuel Montembeault had one of his best games of the season, keeping the Habs in it until they could eventually find their skating legs. Once again, they allowed a goal in the first five minutes (less than two minutes in this time) but Montreal eventually got going and tied it up when Cole Caufield scored his second in as many games early in the third period. However, a late penalty proved costly as Patrik Laine one-timed the winner home with seven seconds left in regulation.
Feb. 13: Sabres 5, Canadiens 3 – Another game, another goal allowed within the first five minutes. It’s basically same old, same old at this point on that front. What was different was that Montreal was able to come back from the deficit and actually take the lead when Joel Armia’s second of the year gave them a 3-2 advantage, one that was short-lived. Jeff Skinner had his best game of the year, beating Montembeault four times to give Buffalo the win.
Goals: Anderson/Suzuki (9)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (19)
Points: Nick Suzuki (28)
+/-: Sami Niku (+3)
PIMS: Michael Pezzetta (68)
Shots: Nick Suzuki (108)
News And Notes
– Ben Chiarot suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday’s loss to Columbus and was placed on IR to create a roster spot for the promotion of Corey Schueneman from Laval. However, he’s only expected to be out for the minimum seven days so they catch a break on the trade value front.
– Tyler Toffoli was traded to Calgary in exchange for a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 fifth-rounder, prospect winger Emil Heineman, and winger Tyler Pitlick. The first-round pick is top-ten protected this year and would become an unprotected 2023 first-rounder with a 2023 fourth-rounder if it doesn’t convey this year. We’ll have more thorough coverage of the move in the coming days.
– The Habs finally got some goaltending insurance with the acquisition of Andrew Hammond from Minnesota for AHL tough guy Brandon Baddock. It’s not about augmenting Montreal’s roster with this move but it allows Cayden Primeau to go back to Laval and work on getting some confidence back as he has struggled mightily with the Habs this season.
– Christian Dvorak was given the green light to return early in the week before the team walked that back the next day. He remains listed as day-to-day.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Toffoli
Hoffman – Byron – Gallagher
Pitlick – Evans – Anderson
Lehkonen – Poehling – Armia
Kulak – Petry
Schueneman – Romanov
Clague – Wideman
The Week Ahead
Feb. 17: vs St. Louis – The Blues are in a pretty tight battle for the second seed in the Central Division despite being one of the top offensive teams in the league. Ville Husso is impressing in goal with Jordan Binnington struggling; it wouldn’t be surprising to see Binnington start in an effort to try to get him going. Jordan Kyrou and Vladimir Tarasenko are in a tight battle for their scoring lead while former Hab Marco Scandella is likely to miss this one due to a lower-body injury.
Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton are going to have a tough decision to make when it comes to Jeff Petry. The veteran blueliner is having a tough season but there are teams that will remember that he played a pretty important role for Montreal in the playoffs and recent postseason performance certainly counts for something. But reputation is only worth so much and with three years left on his deal at a $6.25M cap hit, his value isn’t going to be great. (I don’t put stock into reports of how there are plenty of teams interested, that’s just selective leaking that pretty much every team engages in. It doesn’t really mean much.)
So, there are two options with Petry and neither are particularly ideal. They can try to trade him now and take a hit in terms of value; they’re not going to get a high-end pick and/or prospect and a serviceable replacement (for cap purposes) for him. Or, they can hold onto him and hope his value bounces back next season. Of course, with him indicating that he wouldn’t mind being moved and the fact there’s no guarantee he’ll bounce back next year, that approach carries a big risk as well; if he doesn’t improve next year, his trade value will crater.
What’s the right answer? I’m not sure there is one. I can make a case to go with either option and I don’t like either of them. In a perfect world, Petry plays a lot better in the next month and increases his trade value which makes it easier to find a move for him. Assuming that doesn’t happen though, this, to me, is the toughest call that Hughes and Gorton will have to make over the next five weeks. I don’t envy them for it, that’s for sure.