Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Ilya Kovalchuk
Max Domi – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia
Artturi Lehkonen – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Ryan Poehling
Nick Cousins – Nate Thompson – Dale Weise
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Marco Scandella – Jeff Petry
Victor Mete – Brett Kulak
Carey Price – Charlie Lindgren
Cale Fleury, Jordan Weal
Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher
All’s well that ends well. That phrase was designed for a game like this, I suppose. The Canadiens celebrated like a first round playoff series win after squeaking past the Golden Knights in a shootout.
Carey Price led the celebration after making a huge pad save on Reilly Smith to seal the victory. You got the feeling in the shootout that Price was willing his team to a victory, vowing that they would not lose after poor defensive play and terrible coaching decisions allowed Vegas to tie up the contest with two goals in the final two minutes of regulation.
The Canadiens will not take the ice as a team again until Sunday January 26th, when they will practice to get ready for their a game the following day against the Washington Capitals.
While the players are recharging during the bye week, Marc Bergevin will be crafting his plan for the remainder of the season. He must resist the temptation to act as if his team will make the playoffs. Despite winning four of their past five games, the Habs are extreme longshots to make the post-season.
It is Bergevin’s responsibility to take advantage of this opportunity by maximizing the return available for players he needs to move. And that includes Ilya Kovalchuk.
One of the risks in bringing a player with the resume of Kovalchuk to Montreal is that the fans would become enchanted. Already, after just eight games with the organization, there is talk about offering Kovalchuk a contract extension. It’s silly talk.
Kovalchuk is not part of the Canadiens short or long term future. He is being viewed with rose-coloured glasses given that the hope of playoffs is so minuscule. But make the kind of defensive mistakes that he did tonight in the final two minutes when it actually means something and suddenly reality will be there to smack you in the face.
It’s been a nice run. And fun for Habs fans who have been riding a rollercoaster all season that is heading towards disappointment. So make the trade and enjoy the assets that are returned. It’s a smart hockey decision.
But, of course, don’t stop with Kovalchuk. Clear the deadwood and create opportunities for the players who will be with the team long-term. It’s the way to build a champion.
Plus / Minus
▲ Carey Price, Nick Cousins, Dale Weise
▼ Jeff Petry, Marco Scandella, Nick Suzuki, Claude Julien