Eventually, a lack of talent comes back to hurt teams. As hard as Laval tried this past week, they just don’t have enough talent to score with consistency and that proved to be problematic as they dropped three of their four games.
The Week That Was
Mar. 7: Thunderbirds 5, Rocket 2 – Through 39 minutes, Laval was hanging on despite a depleted roster and they were only down by one thanks to goals from Xavier Ouellet and Danick Martel. However, a goal in the final minute from Nikita Alexandrov (his second of the game) proved to be the back-breaker. The Rocket had a strong third period but weren’t able to solve former Hab Charlie Lindgren which allowed former Hab Matthew Peca to seal it with the empty-netter.
Mar. 9: Rocket 7, Americans 2 – For one game at least, Laval found their scoring touch although it took a little while to get going as it was goalless after 20 minutes. From there, they picked up three in the second period and four in the third with the first three of those coming before the five-minute mark. Brandon Gignac’s shorthanded marker in the second stood up as the winner.
Mar. 11: Phantoms 4, Rocket 3 – Laval briefly held the lead in this one when Justin Ducharme gave them the lead just past the midway mark of the second period. However, the Rocket’s defence completely fell apart in the third (it wasn’t exactly a strong group) as they were outshot 17-4 and more importantly, outscored 2-0 to allow Lehigh Valley to skate away with the victory.
Mar. 13: Penguins 6, Rocket 2 – Head coach Jean-Francois Houle made a perfectly reasonable decision to get to get Kevin Poulin some rest and gave Louis-Philip Guindon a chance to get a rare start. Unfortunately, the decision backfired completely. Guindon allowed three goals on six shots and Poulin only wound up with barely a half a period of rest before having to come in. Joel Teasdale and Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored in the loss.
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Goals: Jean-Sebastien Dea (16)
Assists: Xavier Ouellet (16)
Points: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (30)
+/-: Tory Dello (+18)
PIMS: Louie Belpedio (71)
Shots: Danick Martel (121)
News And Notes
– It wasn’t a great week for defencemen. Tory Dello missed the last two games due to illness while the news was worse for Tobie Paquette-Bisson and Gianni Fairbrother. The former will be out for another month while Fairbrother is out for the rest of the regular season plus another month after that with a pegged return time of late May. Laval would have to go pretty deep into the playoffs for him to return. Laval signed Darien Kleib to a PTO deal to add a sixth healthy defender to the roster.
– Lukas Vejdemo’s injury is more serious than they thought and he, too, may be done for the rest of the regular season but should be back for the playoffs.
– Jesse Ylonen was recalled to Montreal while Shawn St-Amant was sent down to Trois-Rivieres of the ECHL.
Last Game’s Lines:
Harvey-Pinard – Dea – Ylonen
Martel – Gignac – Roy
Ducharme – Abbandonato – Teasdale
Fortin – Beaudin – Bourque
Ouellet – Belpedio
Niku – Galipeau
Kleib – Amorosa
The Week Ahead
Mar. 18: vs Hartford – The Wolf Pack shut out Laval in their only other matchup this season and basically feature the same roster they had then. Jonny Brodzinski is up with New York and is one of their top scorers but otherwise, they’re fairly close to full strength. Former Hab goalie Keith Kinkaid is still with Hartford and should play in this one. If Montreal is scouting any of New York’s prospects, this would be a good game to do so and the Rangers have several quality youngsters on their roster.
Mar. 19: vs Hershey – The Bears have turned it around after a quiet start in large part due to former Hab prospect Zach Fucale who has three straight shutouts. Hershey has a pair of veterans you might recognize on their roster including winger Matt Moulson plus defenceman Cody Franson although both are more supporting-type players than core pieces now.
While Sami Niku’s demotion to Laval had to sting, it was also an opportunity for him. A chance to play bigger minutes in a more prominent role and showcase himself, either to the Canadiens to bring him back up or to another team. He’s trending towards unrestricted free agency (he needs six more NHL games to retain RFA eligibility) so a good showing was crucial. It hasn’t happened. Niku continues to be disengaged at the defensive end and simply isn’t driving enough offence to make up for it. Instead of playing his way into another NHL chance, he could be playing himself out of North America altogether. That’s hardly the outcome anyone expected when he signed with Montreal before the start of the season and he’s quickly running out of time to turn that around.