It was a nice bounce-back week for Laval. Although they didn’t gain any ground seedings-wise in the standings, they picked up five of six points to creep a little closer to third place which is the target position to avoid a play-in series next month.
The Week That Was
Mar. 1: Laval 7, Rochester 5 – A defensive battle this was not, to put it nicely. The Rocket got off to a good start early with two goals in the first nine minutes before trailing before the four-minute mark of the second. However, Laval potted three more before the end of the second and didn’t look back from there. Going into the game, Riley McKay had two career points in the AHL in 23 games. He picked up three points in this contest including the key insurance marker in the third to help pace Laval to victory.
Mar. 3: Laval 4, Rochester 3 (OT) – It was a tough start for the Rocket as they were down 3-0 early in the second. From there, however, Laval was simply dominant. Pierrick Dube scored twice which helped pave the way for Mitchell Stephens to tie it late with Cayden Primeau on the bench. In overtime, Laval failed to score on the power play but just moments after it ended, Anthony Richard fired home the winner.
Mar. 4: Rockford 2, Laval 1 (SO) – This one was a goalie duel as both Primeau and Arvid Soderblom were sharp. Pavel Gogolev opened up the scoring (he was part of the Jake McCabe trade earlier as a contract matcher) and it looked like that might be all they’d need. However, Stephens again scored with Primeau pulled to send the game to overtime and then, a lengthy shootout. It went 11 rounds with only three goals scored. The two from Rockford had Laval connections – Cam Hillis (who was traded to Chicago earlier this season) and Morgan Adams-Moisan who was a fourth liner for the Rocket a few years ago; the latter goal was the winner to give the IceHogs the extra point.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Anthony Richard (24)
Assists: Anthony Richard (31)
Points: Anthony Richard (55)
+/-: Corey Schueneman (+13)
PIMS: Riley McKay (54)
Shots: Anthony Richard (159)
News And Notes
– Kevin Poulin is dealing with an upper-body injury; it’s not the same one he was dealing with recently. He’s out indefinitely while Philippe Desrosiers is back up from Trois-Rivieres.
– Laval lost Nate Schnarr when the Habs moved him to Los Angeles for Frederic Allard so their forward depth was tested a bit more this past week.
– Pierrick Dube has quietly been a nice success story for someone that started the year on a tryout. He’s up to 18 points in 27 games now this season despite basically playing exclusively in the bottom six.
– Montreal papered down Jesse Ylonen and Rafael Harvey-Pinard to Laval before the deadline so those two will be able to play later on in the year for the Rocket. Justin Barron, Rem Pitlick, and Alex Belzile, meanwhile, are up with the big club for good.
Last Game’s Lines:
Richard – Gignac – Teasdale
Condotta – Stephens – Bourque
Simoneau – Abbandonato – Dube
McKay – Mysak
Trudeau – Schueneman
Norlinder – Dello
Beaudin – Bowey
The Week Ahead
Wednesday – vs Belleville – No team in the North Division is doing better over the last few weeks than the Senators, a team that has been a thorn in Laval’s side all season long. Belleville has taken eight of the 11 (yes, 11) matchups so far which is a big reason Laval finds themselves in a play-in spot and not a top-three position. Jake Lucchini has 17 points against his former team while Brandon Gignac and Anthony Richard have been the leading goal-getters for the Rocket versus the Sens with five apiece.
Friday – at Syracuse – This is a game that Laval will need to get if they want to stay in the mix to avoid the play-in. The Crunch hold the third seed in the division and are five points up on Laval with a game in hand. The Rocket can’t afford to let that gap get bigger. They’ve taken three of five matchups from Syracuse thus far but three of their top five scorers in this head-to-head are currently up with Montreal.
Saturday – at Springfield – Hey, an out-of-division matchup in back-to-back weeks, that’s not something we see too often. The Thunderbirds have been hit a bit with St. Louis selling as several players have moved up in recent weeks but they find themselves in the same spot as the Rocket, holding down the last play-in spot while being within striking distance of third. Matthew Highmore, once an invitee to Montreal’s rookie camp, leads Springfield in scoring while former Hab prospect Will Bitten is fourth on the team in points.
It’s not very often that injuries are welcomed and it wouldn’t be fair to say that’s the case with Kevin Poulin’s recent injury trouble. However, it has given Cayden Primeau the opportunity many Montreal fans have been hoping to see for a while now where he gets an opportunity to run with the starting job for an extended stretch during the regular season.
There is a lot of pressure on the 23-year-old’s shoulders as a result. For starters, he’s trying to carry a lineup that, let’s face it, isn’t all that talented on paper, into a playoff spot. On top of that, he’s trying to show not only the Habs but 31 other teams around the league that he still has NHL upside. This should be his last season in the minors as he’ll be waiver-eligible next season. A good stretch run means that someone should want him, even if it’s not the Habs but a bad one not only likely knocks the Rocket out of a playoff spot but also deals a significant blow to his NHL trajectory. If you’re a prospect watcher, this situation is one to follow closely.