The Canadiens hosted 3 teams at the Bell Centre this week; a poor Anaheim outfit (who dismissed its head coach today), a central division leader in the Winnipeg Jets and the Toronto Maple Leafs who are currently second in the Atlantic division. Most everybody expected the Canadiens to be able to handle the Ducks in relatively easy fashion but to stuggle against both the Jets and the Leafs. Everybody but the team itself clearly, the Habs showed up to play and managed to dominate the Jets on Thursday and hang in there against the Leafs to grab a point in overtime.
In those 3 games, Jonathan Drouin managed to notch 7 points (3 against Anaheim and 4 against the Jets) and he looked better than he ever has in a Tricolore uniforme. Playing alongside Brendan Gallagher seems to have done wonders for his compete level and it's easy to know why, if you play with Gallagher and not give your best he will call you out on it. He won't sit on the bench thinking oh well, we did what we could. Completing this first line is Philip Danault who had a great game against the Jets as well with a goal and 3 assists. 56 games in, number 24 has already tied his career best points total with 11 goals and 29 assists for 40 points. It's safe to say that by the time the season finishes, he will have oblirated that mark.
It's also worth noting that Jesperi Kotkaniemi also had himself quite the week! Sure the Leafs managed to keep him off the scoresheet on Saturday but he had scored a goal in the 4 games prior to that one. He's the first 18 year old player to accomplish this feat while playing for the Tricolore and it's highly likely that this is not the last time he'll find a place in the team's record book. The kid is getting better and better and he's finally accepted that he doesn't have to pass to vets all the time and that he's allowed to score himself. Good thing he finally got that since both Lehkonen and Armia have been having issues converting their opportunities.
In net, Carey Price has been the same solid goaltender since December and there's no doubt that he's back to his elite level. He now has 23 wins this season for a career total of 309, just 5 short of Plante's 314 team record mark. With 8 games left to be played in February, it is quite possible that he will be beating the record by the end of the month. While this is no small feat, he still needs to capture a Stanley Cup to be included in the greatest Habs goaltender in history discussion. Winning regular seasonngames is all good but it's the Cup and nothing else that makes you a real winner.
Prior to Satursday's game a deal between the Canadiens and Flyers was announced. Marc Bergevin finally managed to get rid of David Schlemko who had spent more time on the injured reserve list than anywhere else since getting to Montréal and had been in Laval for a few weeks. Joining him on the way to the city of brotherly love is Byron Froese who spent 48 games of the last season in Montreal only managing to tally 11 points. Coming back the other way and Christian Folin (a depth defenseman) and Dale Weise. The Dutch Gretzky is now 30 years old and the last few years have not been kind to himn but sill, he's as happy as a kid in a grocery store at the thought of coming back to Montreal, as showed by this comments he gave to Sportsnet's Eric Engels:
It certainly is refreshing to see a player be so happy to return to Montreal. While Weise was assigned to Laval, it seems more than likely that we will see him in Montreal before long. Last night, Claude Julien was barely using his 4th line, at the end of the second period, 2 players had yet to play 10 shifts and today, Kenny Agostino was put on waivers. Now, this could be because Paul Byron is ready to return but since there's no game before Thursday, it's highly unlikely. What's more likely giving Julien's comments last night though is that Weise gets called up an given a chance on the 4th line. Chaput, Deslauriers, Hudon and Peca must be finding that their leash is shorter and shorter...Bids are now open to know who will be sacrificed to make room.
In the end, the 5 games homestand will have been rather productive as the Canadiens got 8 points out of a possible 10 and remain in 3rd place of the Atlantic division a point ahead of the Boston Bruins. The Bruins have a game in hand however but that contest will be disputed this afternoon when they take on the Avalanche.
What is still hurting the Canadiens however is the fact that their power play still isn't sorted out. You cannot expect to win agame against the Leafs when you have a 4 minute power play and you make nothing of it or when you've got to man advange in overtime and you fail to capitalize. I'm still shocked that Armia is on the power play, in over 200 career game, he's yet to score a power play goal and we need finishers, not guys that come close but fail to convert. If Mueller MUST have him on there perhaps he could put him on the second wave with his regular line-mates . At leasr the 3 link up nicely and if Kotkaniemi can produce, everybody wins!
The Habs will take on the Predators on Thursday night and the Lightning on Saturday before seeing the Panthers on Sunday. Until thren, enjoy the week\