The Montréal Canadiens had a rare Monday night contest at the Bell Centre as they play out their schedule in the final 18 nights.
The Canadiens faced the club they beat in four straight contests in the second round of the playoffs last season. My how things have changed, though, with both clubs likely to be out this year.
The Winnipeg Jets have slim playoff hopes yet, so they’re still giving it their all, leading them to a 4-2 victory.
Last September, if you thought that the goalie with the most games played on the Canadiens this season was going to be Samuel Montembeault, you would not have been believed. However, it appears that will be how it ends up after another injury to Jake Allen.
It doesn’t appear that Allen will return anytime soon. Right now, he’s only one ahead of Montembeault in total games played played at 35 to 34. Carey Price may get a couple this season. Cayden Primeau may get a couple as well.
However, it looks like Montembeault will get most of the remaining games, and that means he’ll have played the most on April 29th.
Montembeault has had some stellar games. Allen’s save percentage is .905, and Montembeault’s isn’t that far behind at .896. Neither are the type of numbers that bring a team to a playoff spot in today’s NHL. Generally speaking, .915 to .920 is the required number, and if there is any type of recovery for this organization, that’s what they’ll need next year from whoever takes the net.
This was one of Montembeault’s better games as he held the desperate Jets in check in the first period. He made some stunning stops in the second, before succumbing in the third.
When a team finishes 31st out of 32 teams in the league, there are clearly some holes. The biggest holes this season start with goaltending, with the team not even doing .900 on the year. That’s actually the biggest hole of the season. Playoff spots cannot be won with .900.
The second biggest hole of the year is the special teams, with the Canadiens having been the worst or second worst all season on the power play and penalty kill. At this moment, the kill is 28th, and the extra-man is 31st. That has to change. There’s enough talent out there to not be at the bottom on the power play, and there is no reason that the club is so passive when killing penalties.
The next hole that needs to be filled is some puck-moving defenders for the entire season on the blue line. That help is on the way and happening now. Jordan Harris looks strong. Justin Barron is having a nice start to his career. Alexander Romanov is improving. Kaiden Guhle is arriving next season, and he should make the club out of camp. Sure, they’ll make rookie errors next year, but this blue line can grow to be a good one.
The final hole is the one that does not get talked about much, but it matters.
The club has to have a second top six at the centre position. Nick Suzuki is one. He’s been scoring at a point-per-game clip since the arrival of Martin St. Louis with 28 points in 28 games. However, they need Christian Dvorak to be the player that he was in juniors when he was a scoring star.
The zone entry and move he made heading into the Jets zone on Montreal’s opening goal was outstanding. It led to Joel Armia scoring on the rebound of an outstanding Dvorak shot. Dvorak must play better. He’s good on the faceoffs, and that helps, but he needs to find a way to be more Phillip Danualt-like, if he cannot be more offensive.
Dvorak has struggled to win the middle of the ice against other centres that he faces. He has chased the game often. That has to change. Dvorak shows some moments, and had some strong games, but he is not consistent enough. If Dvorak can be a somewhat qualified top six at centre, that would be massive to the team’s fortunes.
You can see the holes. You can see how they can be filled. It does not seem like Mount Everest. This is a mountain that the organization can climb.
Here’s the blueprint for next season’s playoff spot: goaltending of .920, special teams middle of the pack, a more mobile defence emerges, and a second top six that can hold his own against top centres.
They get that and they can be in the top 16. They don’t and they’re destined for around 24th.
Certainly, not going to tell you that a loss is goat-like. It’s exactly what the NHL draft pick ordered.
Montreal remains in 31st and another game has passed.
If you thought things were tenuous in the NHL the last couple years because of COVID-19, the cord was completely severed in the American Hockey League. The league was unable to have a competition for the Calder Cup in 2021 because of the difficulties with the virus.
It was a shame for the Laval Rocket who were one of the best teams in the league in the shortened regular season that simply concluded with no fan fare whatsoever.
This year, the playoffs will return, and so have the win totals of the Rocket. The club will make the playoffs barring an absolute collapse. In fact, one can expect a second place finish, if present form holds.
The playoffs should be exciting as the Rock have strengthened their lineup. Emil Heineman and Lucas Condotta are eligible to play in the AHL post-season after recently signing with the organization.
The club will enter the playoffs bolstered by NHL players as well, as the likes of Corey Scheuneman and Jesse Ylonen will return to the minor league team after their NHL duties have concluded.
It could be a fun ride for the Rocket who have a terrific arena to watch a game with outstanding sight lines and atmosphere.