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Laval had a pair of key divisional matchups last week in a home-and-home set with Belleville.  While they’ve struggled recently against the Senators, the Rocket did manage to pick up the win in both games, aiding their midseason playoff push.

The Week That Was

January 19: Laval 5, Belleville 2 – As is often the case with these teams, things started to get out of hand from a rough stuff standpoint with that getting underway, overshadowing the fact it was a one-goal game through 40 minutes.  From there, things got wilder with a pair of fights plus an instigator penalty on Arber Xhekaj.  In between the rough stuff, Jan Mysak’s second of the game gave Laval some breathing room while Brandon Gignac potted the empty-netter to secure the first half of the back-to-back.

January 20: Laval 3, Belleville 2 – This time, a lot of the rough stuff came early with two fights in the first six minutes.  From there, the Sens took an early two-goal lead but the Rocket battled back with a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the second period.  If you’re a believer in late-period momentum carrying over, that happened as Emil Heineman scored on the opening shift of the third with that goal standing as the winner.  Meanwhile, the shenanigans weren’t done as Brennan Saulnier took a run at Kasimir Kaskisuo midway through the period after the whistle, cross-checking the Laval netminder to the ice to start another mini fracas.  Both sides will have time to cool off at least as they don’t play again until late March (where they then play four times in a week and a half and six times in the final month).



# Player GP G A +/- SOG PIMS
4 Tobie Bisson 2 0 4 +3 5 0
12 Filip Cederqvist 2 0 0 +1 5 2
13 Nicolas Beaudin 2 0 0 -1 4 0
14 Jan Mysak 2 2 1 +3 5 0
19 Emil Heineman 2 1 1 E 6 5
20 Gabriel Bourque 2 0 1 +1 1 0
21 Riley Kidney 2 0 0 E 4 2
24 Logan Mailloux 2 0 2 +1 1 9
28 Lias Andersson 2 0 2 E 7 0
37 Brandon Gignac 2 1 1 +1 2 0
42 Lucas Condotta 2 1 0 +1 3 9
44 Olivier Galipeau 2 0 1 +1 5 4
49 Jared Davidson 2 1 0 +2 3 4
61 Philippe Maillet 2 1 0 E 2 2
68 Riley McKay 2 0 1 +1 1 7
72 Arber Xhekaj 2 0 0 E 2 17
81 Xavier Simoneau 2 1 0 -1 5 5
84 William Trudeau 2 0 2 +2 6 0


# Player Record GAA SV% SO
71 Jakub Dobes 1-0-0 2.00 .933 0
73 Kasimir Kaskisuo 1-0-0 2.00 .957 0

Team Leaders:

Goals: Gignac/Roy (12)
Assists: Brandon Gignac (22)
Points: Brandon Gignac (34)
+/-: Tobie Paquette-Bisson (+9)
PIMS: Riley McKay (94)
Shots: Joshua Roy (107)

News and Notes

– Mattias Norlinder missed both games due to illness.  He’s listed as day-to-day. 

– There has been a swap on the back end with Justin Barron being sent to Laval.  Arber Xhekaj has been recalled to Montreal.

– For the games against Belleville, Laval had one right-shot player among its 18 skaters, Logan Mailloux.  (Barron’s demotion will now give them two righties.)

– Philippe Maillet has 15 points in his last 11 games.  If you’re looking for an under-the-radar centre recall (with Mitchell Stephens on waivers), he could be worth a look.

Last Game’s Lines:

Simoneau – Maillet – Andersson
Kidney – Gignac – Heineman
Cederqvist – Condotta – Bourque
Davidson – Mysak – McKay

Xhekaj – Mailloux
Trudeau – Paquette-Bisson
Beaudin – Galipeau

The Week Ahead

Wednesday – vs Utica – Laval has fared well against the Devils recently to help get them out of the basement of the Atlantic Division, grabbing five of a possible six points with all three games going to overtime.  Roster-wise, not much has changed since their last matchup but it’s worth noting that Utica is one of the top penalty killing teams in the AHL, checking in at an 85% success rate.

Friday – at Syracuse – This will be a battle of the two hottest teams in the division.  Laval won their three matchups last month which should give them some confidence even though the Crunch are the stingiest team in the division on a goals-per-game basis.  Gage Goncalves is tied for third in the AHL for assists; he also made his NHL debut earlier this month for the Lightning with a pair of games.

Saturday – at Rochester – If Laval wants to get out of a play-in spot into a playoff spot (the AHL doesn’t differentiate these but I do), this is the team they need to catch.  The Amerks have had a lot of success against the Rocket this season, taking four of the first five matchups while Laval’s top two scorers against Rochester are up with the big clubs at the moment.  This will be Filip Cederqvist’s first game against his former team after the Habs picked him up earlier this month.

Final Thought

While Kasimir Kaskisuo deserves some credit for stabilizing Laval’s goaltending with a completely unsustainable .948 SV%, Jakub Dobes certainly deserves a fair share of that credit as well.

The start of the season was, frankly, worse than anyone could have reasonably expected.  Yes, there’s an adjustment period to playing in the pros but goaltending is goaltending.  Generally, the adaptation period isn’t as significant for netminders so when Dobes was among the worst goalies in the league early on, there was some cause for concern.

But he has certainly turned things around since then.  Since his disastrous start at the beginning of December, he has made 11 starts.  If we’re calling a .900 SV% an adequate number, he has been better than that in nine of those starts, giving Laval at least average-level goaltending most nights.  But that’s underselling what he has done.  Eight of those games have seen him go above the .920 mark which is among the top netminders in the league.  Between him and Kaskisuo, the Rocket have had top-end performances from their goalies for basically the last seven weeks.  That’s what has them back in the thick of things after a disastrous start.

Considering that this is his rookie season, it’s quite possible that Dobes’ performances head back in the opposite direction before too long.  Frankly, sustaining his current run is going to be difficult.  But this has definitely been quite the impressive turnaround, one that I think has flown under the radar considering his full-season numbers still aren’t the prettiest thanks to his dreadful start.  That’s how to stay on the radar in Montreal’s goalie pipeline.