Laval wrapped up their five-game road trip last week, one that saw them begin with plenty of extra players and finish with barely enough to ice a roster. The end result wasn’t much different in the end as they dropped two of three to drop to last in the North Division.
The Week That Was
Nov. 30: Laval 3, Utica 2 (OT) – There is only one reason that the Rocket won this game and that’s Kevin Poulin. He had one of his best efforts of the season and was able to drag a Laval team that was outplayed for most of the night to a victory. The Comets tied it up midway through the third to force overtime but Corey Schueneman potted the winner in the final minute of the extra frame.
Dec. 3: Abbotsford 7, Laval 5 – Unfortunately for the Rocket, Poulin wasn’t able to follow up his strong performance in Utica with another one here as instead, it was one of his tougher nights of the season. Special teams played a big role in this one with the teams combining for five power play goals, including a pair from Peter Abbandonato in the losing effort.
Dec. 4: Abbotsford 6, Laval 3 – Interestingly, J-F Houle opted to go back to Poulin for this one instead of giving Joe Vrbetic his first start with Laval. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a call that didn’t work out. Laval played a pretty good game all things considered with their injury situation but goaltending was the difference. On the happy side of things, Anthony Richard scored to move back into a tie for the league lead in goals.
Goals: Anthony Richard (15)
Assists: Xavier Simoneau (14)
Points: Anthony Richard (25)
+/-: Mitchell Stephens (+5)
PIMS: Mitchell Stephens (25)
Shots: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (72)
News And Notes
– Cayden Primeau wasn’t cleared to join the team for the back half of the road trip so Joe Vrbetic was recalled from Trois-Rivieres once again. He made his AHL debut in mop-up duty on Saturday.
– Madison Bowey missed both games in Abbotsford due to an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated. Justin Barron also missed the first game out West due to a lower-body issue. On top of that, just before they flew to BC, they traded Alex Green to Chicago for future considerations in an effort to break up the defensive logjam.
– Fortunately, there was some good news on the injury front as Gabriel Bourque, Alex Belzile, and Mattias Norlinder all returned from their injuries. But, back to the bad news, as Jan Mysak and Danick Martel were both injured in the first game against the Canucks. With Ryan Francis being sent back to Trois-Rivieres, that resulted in Barron playing at less than 100% simply to ice 18 skaters.
Last Game’s Lines:
Richard – Gignac – Simoneau
Harvey-Pinard – Belzile – Ylonen
Abbandonato – Stephens – Bourque
Condotta – Teasdale
Schueneman – Barron
Trudeau – Leskinen
Norlinder – Dello
The Week Ahead
Friday/Saturday – vs Belleville – The Senators have given the Rocket some trouble early on this season as they’ve taken four of five matchups so far. Jake Lucchini continues to lead the way offensively as the gift from Laval that keeps on giving after they gave him away for free last season. Even Brennan Saulnier, who the Rocket gave away this year, has six points in nine games since the swap. With Ottawa being banged up on the back end right now, it’s possible that Belleville loses another defender by the time these games are played which would be a good break for Laval. If they’re going to hang around in the playoff race, the Rocket need to get both of these games.
A couple of years ago, it looked like Mattias Norlinder was well on his way to becoming a key part of Montreal’s future back end. But things didn’t go too well last season and even though he has been in the same place all of this season, things haven’t gotten any better. Actually, I could make a case that they’ve gotten worse.
Norlinder’s offence is his calling card but this season, he is still looking for his first goal and with only five assists, it’s not as if he’s setting up much either. Yes, he’s still jumping into the play but at some point, those decisions need to start resulting in some goals. Defensively, he has gotten a bit better but a mediocre defender that can’t provide much offensively isn’t much of an NHL prospect. A mediocre defender that’s above average offensively, well, that type of profile at least has a chance.
Two years ago, Norlinder looked like he was going to become that type of player. Now, he has a long way to go just to get back to that level.