Montreal’s first two games of the last week weren’t particularly strong performances. The last one wasn’t the greatest at times either but a late comeback against the Flyers allowed them to come away with a single victory instead of a week of losses.
The Week That Was
Nov. 15: Devils 5, Canadiens 1 – This wasn’t an ideal time to face New Jersey as the Devils came into this stretch on a nine-game winning streak. The Habs played a strong 20 minutes to start this game but hockey still is a three-period game and once the second started, Montreal was on their heels in a big way and Jake Allen didn’t have a lot of help. Evgenii Dadonov finally was able to snap his scoring drought but that was pretty much the lone bright spot in this one.
Nov. 17: Blue Jackets 6, Canadiens 4 – With Columbus struggling and having so many injuries, this felt like a game the Habs could win. Clearly, they felt the same way as they didn’t show up early in the game. They were able to come back from down two goals in the second period to square it up but Samuel Montembeault had a tough third period as the Blue Jackets beat him three more times and added the empty-netter. Jordan Harris had a tough game defensively but did pick up his first of the season.
Nov. 19: Canadiens 5, Flyers 4 (SO) – Montreal got off to yet another slow start in this one as they were down by two before the game was three minutes old. Once again, they were able to come back, this time by the end of the first period as the Habs capitalized on a rare two-man advantage. The Flyers retook the lead just before the midway mark of the third period but in the dying seconds, Nick Suzuki threaded a cross-ice pass to Cole Caufield who one-timed it home with less than two ticks left on the clock. Following an overtime to forget, Suzuki potted the only goal of the shootout.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Caufield/Suzuki (11)
Assists: Dach/Suzuki (12)
Points: Nick Suzuki (23)
+/-: Kovacevic/Suzuki (+4)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (45)
Shots: Cole Caufield (72)
News And Notes
– The forward logjam has been cleared up for a little while as Jonathan Drouin will miss four to six weeks with an upper-body injury. Joel Armia is also dealing with an upper-body issue.
– Rem Pitlick had a few days back up with the Canadiens, serving as the 13th forward on the road. He was returned to Laval when the Habs came home.
– After getting into two fights during the week, Arber Xhekaj is now the NHL leader in penalty minutes.
– Mike Matheson was activated off injured reserve. Pitlick being returned to the minors opened up the roster spot for him.
Last Game’s Lines:
Caufield – Suzuki – Dach
Hoffman – Dvorak – Gallagher
Dadonov – Monahan – Anderson
Slafkovsky – Evans – Pezzetta
Guhle – Savard
Edmundson – Matheson
Xhekaj – Kovacevic
The Week Ahead
Tuesday vs Buffalo – After a good start to the season, the Sabres have come crashing back down lately and will enter this game on an eight-game losing streak. Scoring goals hasn’t been an issue for them this season but stopping them has been and their starter, Eric Comrie, is now on injured reserve. Rasmus Dahlin is one of the top-scoring blueliners in the NHL while Tage Thompson somewhat surprisingly is scoring at a similar pace as last year as he sits tied for third in the league in goals.
Wednesday at Columbus – Yes, them again. Not a whole lot has changed since last week as they’re still hit hard by injuries, especially on the back end. Of course, that didn’t seem to matter this past week as the cannon got a workout as it often does when Montreal comes to town.
Friday at Chicago – This is a rare weekday matinee as Montreal faces off against former assistant Luke Richardson for the first time. The Blackhawks have had issues scoring but have received good goaltending from Petr Mrazek, Alex Stalock (injured), and Arvid Soderblom which has kept them near .500. Jonathan Toews is their only player with more than five goals while former Hab Max Domi is second in points. Jarred Tinordi, another former Canadien, has played in every game this season, logging nearly 18 minutes a night.
The Habs made one other move this week, loaning Emil Heineman back to Leksand of the SHL. I highlight it here as this wound up being a very similar situation to Mattias Norlinder’s a season ago and it’s interesting to note the different approach.
Both players were subject to what is now the old Swedish transfer agreement which meant that Montreal would have only gained assignment rights in December. With Norlinder being hurt in training camp last year, the Habs were able to send him to Laval and then kept him up to gain his assignment rights. Heineman’s injury could have allowed them to take a similar approach – he could have went to Laval for a couple of weeks and then they would have had the option to keep him there, put him with the Habs, or send him back to Sweden.
But one of the concerns from last season was Norlinder’s development being disjointed – Laval, Montreal, Laval, Sweden, Laval. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad getting the exposure to the different leagues but this management feels that stability would be better. Heineman will go play the year in Sweden and then come back to Laval if they’re still going when his season overseas comes to an end. It’s a different approach from Marc Bergevin’s plan from a year ago and it will be interesting to see how it plays out for the young winger.