The Habs continued shuffling their lines and their goalies in an effort to get the team back in the win column. Neither approach worked, however, as they dropped all three games despite some quality contributions from some of their role players.
The Week That Was
Nov. 14: Flames 2, Canadiens 1 – Montreal actually put forth a quality effort in this game but Jacob Markstrom played to his potential between the pipes for Calgary which made scoring difficult to come by; their lone goal was a weird-angle shot from Gustav Lindstrom. Meanwhile, the Flames popped two past Samuel Montembeault (who had a solid game himself) in the second, the last of which was the difference-maker.
Nov. 16: Golden Knights 6, Canadiens 5 – Cayden Primeau got the start in this one – an interesting choice given Vegas’ offensive abilities – but despite the score, he played pretty well. Montreal’s defence was largely non-existent,leading to plenty of good chances for the Golden Knights and as the game progressed, they started to go in. A late high-sticking penalty from Brendan Gallagher was what did the Habs in as Vegas scored on both ends of the power play. Meanwhile, Jesse Ylonen had his first two-goal game in the NHL in the losing effort.
Nov. 18: Bruins 5, Canadiens 2 – After Montreal had one of their best games of the season against Boston the week before, they had one of their worst in this one while the Bruins were ready from the get-go. Jake Allen was under siege early and often and that rarely works out well for the Habs. Juraj Slafkovsky scored his second of the season while Johnathan Kovacevic scored in back-to-back games for the first time in his NHL career.
Goals: Monahan/Suzuki (6)
Assists: Caufield/Matheson/Suzuki (10)
Points: Cole Caufield (16)
+/-: Kaiden Guhle (+6)
PIMS: Arber Xhekaj (47)
Shots: Cole Caufield (68)
News And Notes
– Arber Xhekaj suffered an upper-body injury against Vegas. However, the Habs didn’t need to recall a replacement as Jordan Harris was good to go for the Boston game.
– Meanwhile, Rafael Harvey-Pinard missed the last two games due to a lower-body injury. At this point, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him go on IR before the road trip to allow them to bring up a forward. IR placements can be back-dated so he could be activated for Montreal’s next game.
– It might seem like the defence has been relatively quiet offensively this year but they actually have 12 of Montreal’s 51 goals. That percentage (23.5%) is the highest in the NHL.
Last Game’s Lines:
Newhook – Suzuki – Caufield
Slafkovsky – Monahan – Ylonen
Anderson – Dvorak – Gallagher
Pearson – Evans – Pezzetta
Guhle – Kovacevic
Matheson – Barron
Harris – Lindstrom
The Week Ahead
Wednesday at Anaheim – While the Ducks are rebuilding, they’re off to a good start under new head coach Greg Cronin. Mason McTavish has taken a big step forward while Frank Vatrano already has a dozen goals. Two of their top young core pieces are injured (Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale) while Anaheim is also limiting Leo Carlsson’s playing time, opting to scratch him with some regularity to help get him through his first NHL season.
Friday at San Jose – To say the Sharks have struggled this season would be putting it nicely (although they do have more regulation wins than the Habs…everyone does). They’re averaging less than two goals per game and have allowed more than any other team. Former Hab Mike Hoffman is one goal off the team lead but has only scored in two of 16 games so far while he has already been a healthy scratch. It’s going to be a long year in San Jose.
Saturday at Los Angeles – The Kings’ attack is a lot deeper this year with Pierre-Luc Dubois coming in while Quinton Byfield took a big step forward in his development. (If you’re looking for optimism with Juraj Slafkovsky, this is a path he could wind up following.) Cam Talbot has been quite sharp between the pipes while backup Pheonix Copley has been anything but which is why Los Angeles is believed to be sniffing around the backup goalie market.
From his comments about the three-goalie situation, I think it’s fair to infer that Martin St. Louis isn’t exactly a fan of the three-goalie rotation. Basically, it’s being forced on him by management. And really, it makes sense that he wouldn’t be a fan; it’s hard enough to keep two goalies happy let alone three.
But I can’t help but wonder if another player is being forced on him that he doesn’t really want there – Jesse Ylonen. He was a regular for a couple of weeks and then got the hook, sitting an extended stretch for the return of Joel Armia. Now, injuries have made it so that Ylonen can’t sit out but his usage (and the surrounding context) paints me a picture that St. Louis might prefer someone else in that roster spot.
Look at the game against Vegas. Ylonen had two goals in the second period and looked dangerous in the offensive zone. How was he rewarded? By playing even less than he had in the first two periods. He had a 13-second shift to start the third and then only saw the ice twice afterward; one of those was a 17-second shift. Is that how you reward a young player who’s having a good game? We’ve seen St. Louis reward other forwards who are playing strong with an extra shift here and there but with Ylonen, he did the opposite. Sure, he was moved up against Boston but in the end, his ice time was near the bottom again.
Ylonen is one of those true ‘bubble’ players, one who flashes enough skill to show that he’s worth keeping around but can’t do so with enough consistency to earn the trust of the coaches. I suspect that if St. Louis had his way, someone else would have the decision to make when it comes to the youngster, not him.