While the week didn’t start off on a particularly good note for the Habs, a pair of late-game comebacks allowed the Canadiens to pick up three points over the weekend including a victory in the second half of a back-to-back.
The Week That Was
Mar. 9: Canucks 5, Canadiens 3 – While Montreal was in this one the entire time based on the score, it certainly didn’t feel like they were truly in it. Artturi Lehkonen had a pair of goals and the game was tied after 40 minutes but once again, the penalty killing let them down as Elias Pettersson’s power play marker (their second of the game on the man advantage) was the eventual winner.
Mar. 12: Kraken 4, Canadiens 3 (SO) – Special teams were an issue early, but this time it was the power play that struggled, allowing an ugly shorthanded goal to Yanni Gourde plus another that was called back on the offside. However, the Habs managed to come back from a two-goal deficit thanks to goals from Alexander Romanov and Nick Suzuki which ultimately led to one of the most embarrassing shootouts in NHL history (for both teams, it wasn’t just Montreal who looked back in there).
Mar. 13: Canadiens 4, Flyers 3 (OT) – This time, special teams were the difference in a good way for the Habs. The first of Nick Suzuki’s two on the night came on the power play and after the Habs found themselves shorthanded on a bizarre sequence that saw Chris Wideman go from not getting a penalty to a five-minute major to a two-minute minor, Rem Pitlick was able to tie up in the final minute on the penalty kill. His strong finish continued when he set up Cole Caufield for the game-winner in overtime on a rare slapper from him.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Nick Suzuki (16)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (27)
Points: Nick Suzuki (43)
+/-: Sami Niku (+3)
PIMS: Michael Pezzetta (68)
Shots: Nick Suzuki (136)
News And Notes
– Artturi Lehkonen’s week started strong but ended on a low note as he was injured in the warmup against the Flyers. There’s no definitive word on how long he might be out. The Habs did get Joel Edmundson back, however. He made his season debut against Seattle before being scratched against the Flyers to avoid playing in a back-to-back.
– Kale Clague took a puck to the face in practice and was placed on injured reserve. Corey Schueneman was brought up from Laval to take his place.
– Cedric Paquette cleared waivers over the weekend and was assigned to Laval.
– Nick Suzuki has now reached new career bests in goals and points. He’s one off his top mark for assists so he should top that one soon.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Anderson
Hoffman – Pitlick – Gallagher
Pezzetta – Evans – Byron
Dauphin – Poehling – Armia
Romanov – Chiarot
Kulak – Petry
Schueneman – Wideman
The Week Ahead
Mar. 15: vs Arizona – Another edition of the ‘Wright Bowl’ is upon us with the Coyotes in town. Arizona has actually been on an impressive run of their own as of late, winning five of seven while scoring 32 goals in that stretch. Nick Schmaltz recently reached a franchise record with seven points in a single game while Nick Ritchie has fit in well since being acquired, notching six points in seven games. Jakob Chychrun won’t be available for this one after being injured over the weekend. The Habs will catch the Coyotes on the second half of a back-to-back as well in this one.
Mar. 17: vs Dallas – The Stars are still in the playoff mix but are without Miro Heiskanen, their top blueliner, as he deals with a bout of mononucleosis. Joe Pavelski continues to have a career year at the age of 37 (which recently landed him a contract extension) while linemate Jason Robertson has cracked the 30-goal mark already. Meanwhile, former Hab Alexander Radulov has just three goals in 51 games this season.
Mar. 19: vs Ottawa – The Sens could have Drake Batherson back for this one although starting goalie Matt Murray (who seems to have Montreal’s number) is likely to still be out. While Ottawa will be missing the players, they’re not expected to be big sellers while by this point, the Habs could be resting some possible trade candidates. Former Hab Victor Mete has the same role with Ottawa that he had with the Habs last season, the seventh defenceman and was recently given permission to try to seek a trade.
When is the right time to hold a player out for precautionary purposes? It’s something that has really increased in recent years; it used to be a big thing and didn’t happen too often but now, it’s a regular occurrence and is happening earlier than a day or two before the deadline now. It’s something the NHL strongly frowns upon although there isn’t a lot they can do about it; teams are permitted to make players healthy scratches.
But one element that rarely gets taken into consideration is the view of the acquiring team. Should the Habs be sitting Ben Chiarot now? You could make a pretty strong case for it. But if I’m the GM of a team wanting to acquire Chiarot, do I want him sitting a week before the deadline? Probably not. If you’re a team battling for position, you don’t want Chiarot needing a game or two to work his way back into playing shape, you want him ready right away. One game off is one thing, a week off is another.
Where am I going with this? Don’t be surprised if Chiarot is in the lineup against Arizona on Tuesday. Effectively putting Chiarot in bubble wrap now is even earlier than most teams have gone with the selling process before and it’s probably not going to go over well with potential suitors. Obviously, the exception here is if a trade is close and doesn’t wait until Monday but with so many teams capped out, a lot of these deals are going to go pretty close to the wire (Josh Manson will an exception, not the start of a big run of trades). But once Chiarot gets through that game, it might be the time to shut him down after that. At that point, the downtime is less than a week and the Habs would be mitigating the risk reasonably well. In the meantime, a lot of people will be holding their breath each time #8 hits the ice against the Coyotes.