While Laval still has a bit of time left, they failed to finish up strong on home ice, giving them some more work to do to get back into the playoff picture. However, their road trip has gotten off to a good start at least.
The Week That Was
Mar. 22: Bridgeport 5, Laval 3 – Emil Heineman made a nice first impression for the Rocket, scoring the first goal for Laval. Despite the score, this game was somewhat of a goalie duel with veteran Cory Schneider winning the battle over Cayden Primeau. Arnaud Durandeau had a pair of goalies for the Islanders in the victory.
Mar. 24: Milwaukee 3, Laval 2 – Once again, the Rocket were out-goalied (which isn’t really a word but it’s an apt description nonetheless). Yaroslav Askarov was the Admirals’s best player by a significant margin, stealing the victory in a game that Laval nearly doubled them up in shots. Joakim Kemell’s second career AHL goal was the winner just shy of the midway mark of the third.
Mar. 26: Laval 4, Manitoba 1 – It was the supporting cast that did most of the scoring for the Rocket in this one. William Trudeau scored to open up the scoring while in the third, the insurance markers were tallied by PTO player Nolan Yaremko plus Heineman. Primeau made 31 stops for the win and in doing so, earned himself at least a brief promotion to the Habs.
Goals: Anthony Richard (24)
Assists: Peter Abbandonato (33)
Points: Anthony Richard (56)
+/-: Beaudin/Dello/Schueneman (+9)
PIMS: Riley McKay (112)
Shots: Anthony Richard (169)
News And Notes
– There is one less healthy blueliner as Madison Bowey is dealing with an injury. He has been part of the back end rotation in recent weeks but as a veteran who was brought in to be an important piece in a time like this, his absence isn’t ideal.
– Philippe Desrosiers was brought back up from Trois-Rivieres when Cayden Primeau was recalled to Montreal. He’ll likely be sent back to the Lions soon.
– Forward Louis Boudon was released from his tryout. The move seems a little odd considering that they don’t have a lot of forward depth at the moment. Boudon played in one game with the Rocket.
Last Game’s Lines:
Richard – Gignac – Condotta
Simoneau – Stephens – Teasdale
Heineman – Abbandonato – Dube
McKay – Yaremko – Bourque
Trudeau – Beaudin
Struble – Schueneman
Norlinder – Allard
The Week Ahead
Tuesday – at Manitoba – This one fell outside the cutoff point for this article but has already been played. It’ll be covered in next week’s column but they were able to pull off the win.
Friday – at Rockford – The IceHogs picked up the shootout victory over Laval earlier this month but their fortunes haven’t changed too much since then as they’re jockeying for the right to host a play-in series next month against Iowa. They picked up Rocco Grimaldi at the deadline to bolster their offence although it’s worth noting that three of their top seven scorers are currently up with Chicago so this might be the right time to be catching them.
Saturday – at Milwaukee – Laval won’t have to wait long to try to get some revenge against Askarov and the Admirals. Milwaukee is on a five-game winning streak which has them tied atop the Central Division with Texas. However, they’re currently without six of their top eight scorers to recall (one or two might be back by this one but still, they’re missing several key pieces as well) so while they’re winning, their roster on paper isn’t the strongest.
Anthony Richard’s return to Laval hasn’t been an overly productive one with just one assist and six shots in his first three games back. While I’m sure there’s some disappointment on his end about having to go back down when he was doing pretty well with the Habs, he does have an opportunity. With the Rocket out of the playoffs and a lot of Laval’s top players up with Montreal, this is the chance for Richard to prove that he is an upper-tier player in the minors when it matters most.
A big finish from him would go a long way towards establishing himself as a legitimate go-to player in the minors while his performance with the Canadiens has demonstrated he’s capable of holding his own in a recall with high-end speed. Richard is having a nice season but a lot of that came early on; he has six goals for Laval in 2023. He’s starting to look more like a second liner that overachieved than a true top liner.
But that can change with a strong couple of weeks. If Richard can once again carry Laval’s attack, he’ll be well-positioned for another crack at Group VI unrestricted free agency this summer. A one-way deal wouldn’t be likely but not impossible while a pricey two-way deal could come his way. He’s almost at that point but not there yet; a big finish is all he needs to bolster his stock. That strong finish just might be enough to get Laval to the playoffs as well.