Montreal’s trip out West started off on a winning note but it didn’t stay that way as they dropped a trio of one-goal games to finish the week despite putting up some decent efforts.
The Week That Was
Feb. 28: Canadiens 3, Sharks 1 – Jake Allen had himself a strong game, turning aside 38 shots. Meanwhile, Denis Gurianov had a decent debut after being acquired over the weekend from Dallas. In between, the rookies got the job done as Kaiden Guhle scored in his first game back from injury while Jesse Ylonen potted the game-winner midway through the third period.
Mar. 2: Kings 3, Canadiens 2 – Josh Anderson got the Habs on the board midway through the first period before Alex Iafallo tied it in the second. A one-minute stretch proved to be Montreal’s downfall as Gabriel Vilardi and Anze Kopitar scored quickly in the third period and while Gurianov made it close with a memorable blast for his first goal with the Canadiens, that’s as close as they’d get.
Mar. 3: Ducks 3, Canadiens 2 – It was a matchup of two teams going nowhere in the standings…and it showed. Neither team had much jump throughout the game and special teams made the difference in this one. Anaheim came into this one with a power play that was worse than Montreal’s but they scored twice with the man advantage in the third period which proved to be the difference.
Mar. 5: Golden Knights 4, Canadiens 3 – The Habs again came out without much jump and found themselves down by three on two separate occasions to show for it. However, they once again picked things up in the third and a pair of quick goals from AHL recalls Alex Belzile and Rafael Harvey-Pinard helped to make the finish interesting but they weren’t able to get the equalizer past Jonathan Quick.
Goals: Cole Caufield (26)
Assists: Nick Suzuki (28)
Points: Nick Suzuki (49)
+/-: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (+8)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (101)
Shots: Cole Caufield (158)
News And Notes
– Kaiden Guhle and Joel Edmundson both returned from their respective injuries. However, Guhle didn’t make it through the week before suffering another injury while Justin Barron was banged up as well, preventing him from being papered down to Laval after the trade deadline. Accordingly, Barron is up for the rest of the season no matter what as are Rem Pitlick and Alex Belzile.
– Frederic Allard was recalled from Laval, a day after being acquired, to cover for Guhle’s absence. He has already been sent back down.
– Montreal’s only other move on the trade front was retaining half of Nick Bonino’s contract. In return, they picked up a 2024 fifth-round pick; Tony Sund and Arvid Henrikson were inconsequential parts to the deal as each element of a three-team trade (which are three separate trades altogether) has to have each team receiving ‘something’. In this case, Sund and Henrikson were the least-valuable players on San Jose and Montreal’s reserve lists.
Last Game’s Lines:
Harvey-Pinard – Suzuki – Gurianov
Hoffman – Drouin – Anderson
Pitlick – Dvorak – Ylonen
Pezzetta – Tierney – Belzile
Matheson – Savard
Edmundson – Allard
Harris – Kovacevic
The Week Ahead
Tuesday vs Carolina – If you’re rooting for losses, you’ll be happy with this matchup. The Hurricanes lead the Metropolitan Division, have won seven of their last nine games, and are one of the stingiest defensive teams in the league. Considering they don’t allow a lot of shots and scoring chances and the Canadiens aren’t exactly generating a lot of shots and chances with the roster they’re using right now, this is set to be a tough one for the Habs.
Thursday vs New York (R) – What has changed for the Rangers since these teams last met? They made a couple of trades – you might have heard of them – picking up Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane, capping themselves out in the process. That last bit is notable as the NHL has denied them the ability to use an emergency cap-exempt recall since they put themselves in this situation. They’ll at least have K’Andre Miller back for this one but they’ve been struggling to ice a full lineup since acquiring Kane.
Saturday vs New Jersey – The Devils are right on Carolina’s heels in the Metropolitan and made one of the biggest splashes on the trade front, adding Timo Meier in a nine-player, four-pick trade with San Jose. Jack Hughes is quickly approaching the 40-goal mark, helping to lead a top-five attack. New Jersey is currently without backup Mackenzie Blackwood (and Jonathan Bernier still, for that matter) and with this game being the first of a back-to-back set with the other game being against the Hurricanes, it stands to reason that Montreal should see third-stringer Akira Schmid for this one.
One of the bright spots of the week was Jonathan Drouin finally getting his first of the season, snapping a 14-month stretch without a goal. While he’s an easy target because of his contract and underperformance, it’s nice to see him get that particular monkey off his back. He has a lot to play for down the stretch, more than a lot of veterans as he’ll be shopping around for a new contract. A good showing these last six weeks while playing down the middle could open up some opportunities for him this fall. I’m not sure one of those opportunities will be in Montreal but here’s hoping he’s able to finish up on a high note.