ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The Canadiens snapped their eight game losing streak on Tuesday, by beating the Islanders by a score of 4-2, on the night that the organization was honouring their captains for their 110th birthday. It was fitting that current captain Shea Weber sealed the win with the empty net goal with 28 seconds remaining in the third. Weber was named the first star as he finished the game with one goal, one assist, took three shots and finished plus-3 in 29:49 of ice time.
On Thursday, the Habs weren’t able to come back from a 3-0 deficit against the Avalanche and went on to lose by a score of 3-2 at the Bell Centre. The following night, Nate Thompson scored the game winning goal with 1:07 remaining as the Canadiens win 2-1 against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Carey Price made 29 saves and was named the first star of the game.
Last year, it took 98 points in the Eastern Conference to clinch a playoff spot. If we assume that it will take the same number this season, the Canadiens need to have a .634 winning percentage from now until game 82. In other words, for every block of three games, they would need four points.
Montreal will travel to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins on Tuesday night, before heading home to face the Senators on Wednesday, and the Red Wings on Saturday. I think four of the possible six points is attainable this week.
Kinkaid to Laval
In last week’s column, I wrote that I was concerned that the coaching staff doesn’t have confidence in Keith Kinkaid and just hours later they placed the goalies on waivers. Kinkaid reported to the Laval Rocket on Wednesday after clearing waivers.
“It gives him the opportunity to play more often in Laval,” said Claude Julien on Monday. “What we saw from him is good, but not good enough for the moment.”
Kinkaid had one win in five starts this season, with a 4.24 goals against average and .875 save percentage. Those aren’t numbers to inspire confidence.
Through two games with the Rocket, it can be seen that Kinkaid has some work to do to improve his game. He has a 1-1 record, 3.77 goals against average and .870 save percentage.
“It wasn’t easy for him that being said he hasn’t played a lot,” Joel Bouchard told The AHL Report on Friday in Syracuse after Kinkaid allowed five goals on 29 shots. On Saturday, Kinkaid came into relief to Charlie Lindgren 8:21 into the first period after Lindgren left the game due to injury. Kinkaid allowed two goals on 25 shots against Springfield to record his first AHL win of the season.
I was surprised on Tuesday that Cayden Primeau was recalled from Laval on Tuesday. I was expecting that Primeau would spend the entire season with the Rocket regardless of his performance in order for him to get the opportunity to play a lot of hockey this year.
If I was the decision maker, I would have recalled Lindgren as I wouldn’t want a 20-year old prospect spend so much time on the bench acting as a backup.
“They’re very similar. I think, you know, we think Primeau has a great future but lately they’ve been pretty equal, Primeau overall I think you know with the start of season where he is right now had maybe a slight slight edge,” Julien explained the decision. At the time of the recall, Primeau was going through the most difficult stretch of his young professional career having allowed 14 goals in his previous three starts.
Primeau became the fifth youngest goalie in franchise history to make his debut on Tuesday night. He understandably looked nervous to start the game, and played better as the game progressed, finishing with 32 saves on 35 shots.
“Everybody knows … you could tell that [Cayden Primeau] was nervous in the first period. He’d probably love to have those two goals back. One was a loose puck that he didn’t freeze it quick enough. At the same time, we need to take away that guy that pokes the puck in — that’s on us, too. And the other one was from a bit of a tough angle. But he made some big saves after that,” analyzed the coach post-game.
It’s unclear what the plan is going forward for the goaltending. Primeau should start one of the two games in the upcoming back-to-back this week. The next sequence of games on consecutive days will be on January 6th and 7th. If the plan is to play Price every game until then, Primeau should be sent to Laval after his start this week.
Hole on Left Defence
Victor Mete‘s injury has exposed the Canadiens need for a left defenceman. By exposed, I mean business as usual, because it’s been known ever since the loss of Andrei Markov.
Gustav Olofsson played on average 8:06 and was a minus-4 in three games before being returned to Laval. Otto Leskinen got the call and made his NHL debut on Thursday. Through two games, Leskinen has played an average 9:18.
The coach has clearly asked for help on defence for awhile now. “We’re looking for a left-handed defenceman, I’m not taking anything away from our defencemen, but it will position them in a better role than asking too much of them, just like we asked from Jeff Petry last year during Shea Weber’s absence. He had a lot on his plate. It’s the same for certain other players until we get a left-handed number one defenceman,” said Julien on October 16th.
Julien must be tired of waiting for his general manager to help him. I think it’s a strong message that the coach is sending to his boss, when he’d rather have Olofsson or Leskinen play under 10 minutes than play Mike Reilly. We can take it even one more step back and look at the game on November 30th, where Brett Kulak and Reilly were both healthy scratches in favour of Olofsson.
Ben Chiarot has played an average 28:13 per game since Mete’s absence. He has done a good job, however I think it’s a situation that I think can’t be sustained by him. In the game against the Rangers on Friday, the second leg of a back-to-back, Chiarot showed signs of fatigue.
Prior to this season, Chiarot had played over 25 minutes in one game in his career. He’s done that nine times in his 30 games with Montreal.
Wilson Denies Report
Last Monday, Georges Laraque, former NHL player and current radio host, reported on 91.9 Sports that Marc Bergevin met with Bob Hartley in Russia to gage his interest in coaching the Canadiens. Bergevin was in Russia to meet their 2018 second round pick, Alexander Romanov.
The report was denied on Twitter by Paul Wilson, Senior Vice President Communications & Public Affairs of the Montreal Canadiens. When Wilson joined the organization, they promised that they would be more transparent. You can’t get any more transparent than what we saw on Monday.
— Paul Wilson (@prpwilson) December 2, 2019
As much as I respect Wilson for the transparency, this has set a precedent. The following day, Martin McGuire, the voice of the French radio broadcasts, reported that the Habs have had serious discussions with the Flyers on a potential trade to acquire Shayne Gostisbehere. Wilson or anyone in the Canadiens organization hasn’t denied the report. Does this mean that it’s accurate?
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