Habs Notepad | Week in Review, Roster Decisions, Molson

MONTREAL, QC – NOVEMBER 28: Victor Mete (53) of the Montreal Canadiens skates with the puck during the second period of the NHL game between the New Jersey Devils and the Montreal Canadiens on November 28, 2019, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The Canadiens played the first three of their seven game road trip last week, and collected four of the possible six points. On Tuesday, Montreal scored three unanswered goals to go on to beat Vancouver 3-1Carey Price‘s 38 save performance earned him the first star of the game.

I rarely complain about officiating, however I think it’s merited in a Joel Armia disallowed goal where the NHL decided that Artturi Lehkonen prevented the goalie to play his position in the crease. For a league that wants scoring to increase, this decision was ridiculous. I will let you view the goal in the video below and judge yourself.

On Thursday night, the Canadiens came back from a 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to go on to win 4-3 thanks to Max Domi‘s winning goal in overtime. Ben Chiarot led the team with 26 minutes of ice time and plus-4.

On Saturday, the Oilers opened the scoring 1:30 into the game and went on to beat the Habs 4-3. “I’m disappointed, we felt like we beat ourselves. Some really bad penalties, you know, in the offensive zone and at bad times and some real bad decisions and, you know, two two-on-one goals and I didn’t think we’re sharp tonight as simple as that,” said Claude Julien after the game.

The coach was also certainly disappointed of his team’s indiscipline especially since it was in the game plan heading into the matchup. “In my book, the penalties were earned,” said Julien when he was told that Philip Danault thought that some of the calls were questionable. “We need to stop pointing fingers there where we don’t have to point, and look at ourselves say that we lost the game ourselves and it certainly wasn’t the referees fault.”

On December 9th, the Canadiens needed a .634 winning percentage until the end of the season in order to reach 98 points that was needed last year to clinch a playoff spot. They have four of the six games since then.

Last Monday, the Habs were third place in the Atlantic Division which would earn them a playoff spot. You would think that two wins out of three games (.667 winning percentage) would keep them in a playoff spot, however the standings say otherwise as the Habs are now fifth in the Atlantic and outside of the playoffs.

The Canadiens are in Winnipeg to face the Jets on Monday before they head back to Montreal for the Christmas break. On Friday, they will travel to the state of Florida to face the Lightning on Saturday and the Panthers on Sunday.

Upcoming Roster Moves and Decisions

We await the imminent returns of Victor Mete and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The Canadiens have been carrying 22 players on their roster for most of the year, therefore they won’t need to make a roster move until they both ready to return.

Mete is the closest to return and may potentially play against the Jets on Monday. This will bump Mike Reilly out of the lineup and back into the press box. Prior to the start of the road trip, Gustav Olofsson and Otto Leskinen got an opportunity to play while Reilly was a healthy scratch. Oddly enough, in the three games since reintegrating back into the lineup, Reilly had more ice time (11:41) than Olofsson (8:06) and Leskinen (10:18).

Mete’s return will help the coaching staff balance out better the ice time on the left side of the defence. Julien said that he’s happy with the Chiarot – Shea Weber pairing and that they had time to decide on where Mete would integrate the lineup. In other words, I think we should expect Mete to play with Jeff Petry and Brett Kulak to form the third pairing with Cale Fleury.

I don’t expect Lukas Vejdemo to make the trip to Florida as Kotkaniemi is likely to return on the weekend. This will likely push Riley Barber into the role of the 13th forward. To make the room for Kotkaniemi at center, I think that Domi should be moved to the left wing.

In the game against the Oilers, two mistakes made by Domi led to goals against. In the video below, you can see that Domi’s turnover at the blue line led to chaos in Montreal’s defensive coverage, which Edmonton capitalized on to take a two goal lead. After losing the puck, Domi took himself out of the play and didn’t help defensively.

On the eventual game winning goal, Domi lost the puck in the offensive zone, which led to a two-on-one for the Oilers. You can see on the video, that Domi didn’t make an effort to return back to his zone until it was too late.

To make room for Domi on the wing, I can see the coaching staff moving Lehkonen to the right wing as Ryan Poehling has played well since he rejoined the roster.

“I have no issues with Ryan’s game right now. He’s a hard worker, he’s strong along the walls, he’s going to the net hard. He’s a bigger body and his presence is noticed out there. I’ve like his game and again, for me what I’ve seen is that he’s been pretty consistent since he came back,” said Julien on Friday.

Goaltending Decisions

With the Atlantic Division standings being so tight, the weekend games against the Lightning and the Panthers will be crucial. If we add the game against Carolina on New Year’s Eve against the Hurricanes, it will be three important games in four nights. Will Carey Price get the start in all three games?

I think that Price should get both starts this weekend, and then make a decision for the Carolina game based on the outcome. I think it would put Charlie Lindgren in a difficult situation to play him in the second game of the back-to-back considering the importance of it, and the fact that he hasn’t played since December 13th in the AHL, and since April in the NHL.

I’m also not expecting Cayden Primeau to get recalled for the weekend games as he has struggled as of late with the Rocket. “Right now for Cayden, it’s a battle. It’s been a couple of games where he’s allowed five goals,” Joel Bouchard told 91.9 Sports on Friday after Primeau allowed five goals on 24 shots. “We have things that we need to continue working with him on his game.”

Molson Active on Twitter

Geoff Molson being active on Twitter isn’t news. I think that it’s actually a good idea that the owner is on social media in order to interact with fans and to have an understanding of the pulse of the fan base.

Last week, Molson decided to engage with The Gazette’s Stu Cowan during the game in Vancouver and with La Presse’s Richard Labbe during the game in Calgary. I don’t think it was a good idea for the owner to engage with the reporters via Twitter, regardless of his opinion on the topics. Cowan and Labbe were providing their personal opinions and didn’t direct them or tag Molson on their communications. The owner went out of his way to add his two cents on topics, that in the grand schemes of things were minor.

By Chris G., Senior Writer
All Habs Hockey Magazine
Copyright © 2019 Rocket Sports

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