The Montreal Canadiens started this week with seven games until the trading deadline on Feb. 24, and to stay in the playoff hunt, they needed to go 5-2.
The first of the seven didn’t go well with a home loss to the Arizona Coyotes, which made Wednesday night’s game in Boston even more significant than it was before. A loss to the Bruins meant no margin of error in the final five games or it would seem inevitable that GM Marc Bergevin has to be a seller at the deadline, with the chance of a playoff spot next to zero.
The Bruins are the best team in the league, and they played like it, winning 4-1. That means the Habs need to win their next five to stay in the hunt before the deadline.
It seems insurmountable, but Friday’s game in Pittsburgh could keep hope alive.
If Max Domi could have got the puck to hit the post and go in instead of out, his slump would be over.
Domi had two clean looks in the second period, and he struck iron both times. As it is, the slump continues for Domi, and how they’ve missed him. One goal in 19 games for Domi. It was obvious that his through-the-roof shooting percentage of last season wasn’t going to continue, but it didn’t have to fall off the table, either. Domi is clearly struggling, but if posts today are goals tomorrow, perhaps this will pave the way for some goals on Friday or Saturday.
Domi is a Wilde Horse looking for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that you really can’t even see that well, unless you squint. But squinting for positives is what we will do, as the Habs look eliminated from a playoff spot with another loss. So the bottom line is Domi hit the post twice on Wednesday. No one else mustered that.
One positive for sure was the goal the Canadiens scored in the second period.
It was the 12th goal of the season for Nick Suzuki. He set up his own goal as well, if that makes any sense. The original set-up pass was Suzuki’s deftly sent to the point after winning a puck battle behind the net. From the point, Marco Scandella sent it to the goal where Suzuki went after the pass. His intention was to set a screen.
However, the shot went off his hip and redirected into the net. That’s point number 36 on the season for Suzuki as he continues to count at a point-per-game pace recently. Suzuki has nine points in his last nine games, having moved into third spot in rookie scoring. He won’t win the Calder Trophy — that’s going to go to Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes — but there’s a very good chance that Suzuki wins the third nomination as top rookie.
The praise has been strong and seemingly never-ending for Suzuki this season, and he surely deserves it. He’s one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for Montreal.
With the injury to Shea Weber, it’s been quite a busy time for Jeff Petry.
Petry is getting about 27 minutes per night, rather than 20 minutes. That’s a formula that can work in the short term — to up a second-pair defender’s minutes to first pair — but in the long run, the player will falter.
In Boston Wednesday night, Petry made the transition from short term to long run. He was a goat on all three goals by David Pastrnak as the Bruins forward took over the league lead in goals with a hat trick. Petry got turnstiled on the first goal, as well as on the second. On the third goal, in a panic, he actually passed the puck to Pastrnak. Petry has been outstanding this season; he has a wickedly good shot, skates beautifully and has scored overtime winners. He has played some of the best hockey of his career and could fetch a first-round draft choice if Marc Bergevin decided to go that direction.
There’s nothing but praise for Petry this season, except in this one. If scouts watched this game for a possible trade prospect, they would be telling their GM to take a pass on Petry.
It was to be expected that Jonathan Drouin wasn’t going to be sharp after three months on the sidelines, and he isn’t. On the first goal against, it was a Drouin giveaway that started the proceedings that also included Petry turnstiled, Kulak leaving his man, and Drouin not back-checking very hard after his original error. After that mistake, Drouin was unable to execute at all like he did before the wrist surgery, when he was the leading scorer on the team.
It will take some patience for the Canadiens, but they don’t have any room for patience now as the season is hanging in the balance. Drouin hasn’t sounded confident that he can shoot well, or even pass the puck without any pain. This is actually probably more concerning than what Shea Weber might be going through at the moment. If Drouin, who needs to pass and shoot to feel confident, can’t get there, then the Habs may have an issue on their hands.
The organization needs to hope that this is temporary, and that the operation was actually a success. As it stands now, when a player is supposed to be ready in eight weeks but takes 12, then he doesn’t feel as if he can pass or shoot, that’s like a ship not seeing the lighthouse and crashing into the rocks on the shore.
We shall see, but I’m not feeling confident on this one at the moment.
A final big, ugly goat award goes to the officials on this one for one moment in particular. The hatred for Brendan Gallagher is so significant around the NHL by the refs that they are completely blind to what is in front of them. Gallagher was cross-checked in the face; his head snapped back. Somehow Gallagher and Zdeno Chara got offsetting minors, but the moral of the story here is clear: if you are going to exchange cross-checks, make sure you get in a good shot to the face. Failing that, ensure that you aren’t Brendan Gallagher.
For Gallagher, fairness from the refs just isn’t a thing in today’s NHL. It doesn’t exist. To the refs, Gallagher is in the same category as Brad Marchand. They cannot help themselves; they hate him. Teeth could have been lying on the ice and it would have been two minutes each.
What a day for reporting in Canada on the Montreal Canadiens. There was no definitive word on Shea Weber’s injury from the club, so some insiders went to work trying to get the truth, and one of them did not have a very good day.
Nick Kypreos, formerly of Sportsnet, said that the foot injury was so significant that it may be the end of Weber’s career. Kypreos said in a tweet that Weber was done for the season with an operation expected. Darren Dreger of TSN said that Weber was seeing the same doctor that operated on him in 2018 to get a second opinion and that meeting took place Wednesday in Wisconsin.
That part was true from Dreger, as Weber met his surgeon in Green Bay. At this point, it didn’t seem like there were going to be any positive reports on Weber’s future. However, late in the afternoon, after the meeting with the surgeon, Francois Gagnon of RDS said that the outcome might be better than was feared. That one was the right answer, so credit to Gagnon.
An hour later, the Habs finally released the news that Weber received from his doctor Wednesday. The injury was actually his ankle, not his foot. It also wasn’t career-ending, but will leave him out of the lineup for only four to six weeks. He also won’t need an operation, but simply some rest, since it’s a sprain.
For Habs fans, this was a lot of anxiety over four to six weeks. For the Habs themselves, while good news, it won’t help now as a playoff fight goes into impossible territory without their best defender for six weeks. However, the organization has renewed hope for next season on this positive outcome. One can imagine that should the Canadiens not be in a playoff fight when Weber is healthy, they would shut him down for the final two weeks.
There would no need to rush him back into the lineup for meaningless games.