The rest of the season is for the lovers of hockey and fans of the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens took on the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre on Thursday.
But the nemesis of the Habs’ entire season struck again as the Canadiens fell apart in the third period to lose to the Rangers 5-2.
- It’s been an up and down season for Max Domi. He didn’t seem to love the constant move from centre to the wing over and over again. He’s back at centre now and playing extremely well with Paul Byron and Jordan Weal. There have been rumours of Domi moving on to another market via trade as he approaches his restricted free agent contract. But the word is they were not shopping him at all at the trade deadline. In fact, they were saying that they would not even enter a conversation about moving their leading scorer from last season. Domi scored again in this; he now has seven points in his last six games. He has great jump these days. He looks confident and he looks engaged. He’s also bringing his wingers along with him. Byron looks like a different player since returning, and it’s the best hockey that Montreal has ever seen of Weal.
- The best total in the career of Tomas Tatar for goals was 29. He now has 22 to lead the Canadiens. Montreal would surely love to have a 30-goal scorer again, but Tatar will have to get hot with the season winding down. Tatar’s goal Thursday against the Rangers was absolutely gorgeous. It was a series of moves on a breakaway that rivals any of the greatest moves that the best players in the game can do. Tatar now has 58 points on the season. His career-high is 58, set last season, so that will surely fall soon. Tatar will be on the Canadiens next season, and with the playoffs being the ultimate goal next year, GM Marc Bergevin is pleased that he can rely on Tatar towards that goal. But after that, look out because there will have to be some money on the table as Tatar hits the unrestricted free agent market. Tatar will want a lot of money on a long term deal. It is going to be interesting, but, for now, the fans get to enjoy a tremendous goal and an outstanding player.
- A great NHL hockey team will give up a third-period lead not even a single time an entire season. They lead because they are better, and they lock it down because they are better. Even a very good hockey team gives up a third-period lead only once or twice in an entire season. Not the Montreal Canadiens. They give up a lead seemingly all of the time. What an unbelievable difficulty this season. The Canadiens would have made the playoffs if they were mildly respectable at holding a lead after two periods. The Habs are the worst team in hockey at this statistic of giving up a third-period lead. They suffered this ignominious fate a stunning 11 times. In fact, the last time the Rangers were in town was one of the worst nights of the season as Montreal got out to a huge lead in a high-flying offensive game and then the Habs completely collapsed in embarrassing fashion in the third. In this one, a 2-0 lead early turned into 2-1 after two with yet another late goal against, then in the third, the Rangers took over to complete the comeback with four quick goals. The Habs are going to have to figure this out next season. They are going to have to study why the club is excellent in the first, pretty good in the second, and maybe the worst team in the entire league in the third. They will have to figure out as well why they are simply abysmal at the Bell Centre. They are a much better team away from their own fans. It’s easy to simply point to a lack of talent on these things, and that is the primary reason. However, why are they less talented at home, and why are they less talented in the third period? To be continued.
- The ice time of Nick Suzuki is a nitpicking concern. The GM of the Habs pointed out Suzuki for outstanding play at the Monday news conference, yet Bergevin does not seem to be on the same page with the head coach. You would think this was a time to up Suzuki’s ice time, and keep giving him every opportunity to keep growing as a player. However, he isn’t really being used much by Claude Julien. Suzuki had one of the lowest ice time totals the other night against the Vancouver Canucks, and in this one, he had low ice time again. It doesn’t make a ton of sense. Now admittedly, no one should be trying to make the point that this is a huge thing, but it would be more appropriate if he played more, if he is going to be the future.
- After a tremendous start for Cayden Primeau to his pro career where he had his save percentage as high as .932 in the first month in the American Hockey League, he fell hard as the games piled up. Perhaps it was a letdown after getting his NHL debut when he played well for the Canadiens with a key win. Primeau’s save percentage fell under the magic .900 for the season only recently. That quick move up the ranks to the NHL was on hold. In the last week though, the Rocket head coach Joel Bouchard decided that if he was going to make the playoffs, he would have to do it on the back of Primeau, or the playoffs was not going to happen. The rotation with Mike McNiven and Keith Kinkaid was not working. The seventh-round draft choice out of Northeastern Primeau has responded tremendously to the vote of confidence. He has three wins in a row allowing only three goals against. His save percentage in the three games was .960, .963, and .964. Six points out of six for the Rocket and suddenly they are back in the playoff races when all looked lost only two weeks ago. As it stands now, the Rocket are one point out of fourth place for the final playoff spot behind the Syracuse Crunch. Both teams have played 57 games. The next game for Laval is in Rochester against the Americans on Friday night.