The 2021-22 season was a rough one for the Habs although they were able to end it on a high note, winning both of their games while still being able to lock down the top odds in the upcoming draft lottery.
The Week That Was
Apr. 27: Canadiens 4, Rangers 3 – The Rangers elected to rest pretty much everyone they could for this game which played a big role in the outcome. The key to this one for the Habs was late-period scoring. Ryan Poehling scored with 75 seconds left in the first while Jeff Petry scored with nine seconds left in the second and potted the game-winner with just 31 seconds remaining after the Canadiens coughed up a shorthanded goal from Ryan Strome four minutes earlier to tie it up.
Apr. 29: Canadiens 10, Panthers 2 – Florida also elected to sit everyone they could, going so far as dressing two players who didn’t play a single shift while giving Jonas Johansson only his second start in four and a half months. The rust showed early and often as Montreal scored on their first three shots of the game and didn’t let up. Cole Caufield had his first career hat trick, Jordan Harris scored his first NHL goal, and Tyler Pitlick scored his first as a Hab…and that was only half of the scoring effort.
Goals: Cole Caufield (23)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (40)
Points: Nick Suzuki (61)
+/-: Harris/Niku (+3)
PIMS: Michael Pezzetta (81)
Shots: Cole Caufield (188)
News And Notes
– Tyler Pitlick’s goal against the Rangers was his first since March 10, 2021; he had gone 50 straight without lighting the lamp before that.
– The Canadiens have never had a goal differential worse than -100. By winning by eight goals against the Panthers, they were able to lower their 2021-22 differential to -99.
– Nick Suzuki led the Habs in assists but the second-place finisher might surprise you – with his helper against the Rangers, Chris Wideman moved into sole possession of second with 23. His previous career-high was 12, set back in 2016-17.
– Alexander Romanov is the recipient of the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy, beating out Samuel Montembeault and Jake Evans. The award is given to a player who played a dominant role during the regular season without earning any particular honour.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Hoffman
R. Pitlick – Evans – Gallagher
Perreault – Dvorak – Anderson
Pezzetta – Poehling – T. Pitlick
Edmundson – Petry
Romanov – Savard
Harris – Wideman
Draft Lottery Odds
With the Habs finishing last, they have the best odds of winning the draft lottery, checking in at 18.5%. However, as a result of the change that says teams can only move up ten spots with a lottery win, the bottom five teams can’t pick first. Accordingly, their odds go to Montreal in terms of who picks first. That makes the odds as follows:
1st Overall: 25.5%
2nd Overall: 18.8%
3rd Overall: 55.7%
The draft lottery takes place on May 10th.
A lot of Montreal’s offseason is going to be dictated by Carey Price’s health (or lack thereof) as that will determine what they can and can’t afford to do. But his situation notwithstanding, I’m intrigued to see what happens with the defence. In Saturday’s presser, GM Kent Hughes indicated that if Jeff Petry winds up moving, he’d like to bring in another veteran as it’s not ideal from a development perspective to have a bunch of young guys playing on the back end all at once. He’s certainly not wrong there.
But the Habs have three young blueliners that are close to being NHL-ready in Jordan Harris, Justin Barron, and Kaiden Guhle. Corey Schueneman is older than them at 26 and is still unproven but has shown some promise as well in a third-pairing role. I have to think two if not three of those will be in Montreal on a regular basis next season so how are they going to manage that? Will they all spend some time at both the NHL and AHL levels? (Schueneman needs waivers so he may stick with the Canadiens all season.)
In the meantime, there also should be a push to try to improve a little bit. I’m not saying sell the future for short-term help but development goes a lot better when you’re not allowing 35 or more shots per game routinely and scrambling around in the defensive zone as the Habs were guilty of an awful lot this year. Some defensive reliability and stability can certainly help but turning around and trading your longest-tenured blueliner that’s capable of logging heavy minutes would be going in the opposite direction of that.
Where’s the middle in all of this? That’s where Hughes will likely want to shoot for, getting some stability while leaving pathways for their youngsters to step up if and when they’re ready. But how do they get there with a back end that struggled a ton this season? While Price’s situation will dominate the headlines, this situation is the one I’m particularly intrigued about. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what transpires over the next few months on that front.