ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The Canadiens returned to action on Tuesday following a week off forced by COVID protocol with a 4-0 win against the Oilers. Carey Price made 17 saves to record his first shutout of the season.
“I definitely expected us to start the game with a lot of energy. Since we were skating well, we had an extra fraction of a second to make plays. We gained confidence quickly. I was pleasantly surprised. The guys were well prepared and ready to play. We had energy and we skated well,” Dominique Ducharme said.
On Thursday, the Habs were 1:47 away from shutting the door for a second consecutive game, as they went on to beat the Senators 4-1 in Ottawa. Jake Allen earned his first victory since February 6th.
“I think the last five or six games were losses in overtime, so coin flip and you’re having a tough go with those. It was nice to get back in the win column. I’ve felt solid all year. It’s my goal to keep it consistent throughout this year, especially with this chaotic stretch we have coming up, and just give the boys a chance every night,” Allen said.
On Saturday, the Senators took the lead 42 seconds into the game during a double-minor against Brendan Gallagher, and never looked back as they went on to win 6-3.
“They came out harder and we didn’t match their intensity the way we did in Ottawa. I thought they were on us quick and I don’t think we made the best reads,” Jeff Petry said following the game. Petry was on the ice for five of the Senators goals.
Eric Staal jumped on the ice for the first time with the organization on Sunday, after completing the first seven days of quarantine. He’s able to join the team’s bubble for the last half of the requirement.
Les coulisses de la première journée d'Eric Staal à Brossard. 👀
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) April 4, 2021
“I’m super excited that he’s coming to play for us. I’d love to get some tips from him. He’s a hell of a player. He’s had a long career in the NHL. It’ll be great to have a chance to play with a guy like that every day. I can learn a lot of things from him. He’s a good faceoff guy. He’s a really big centreman. I think I can take a lot of things from his game,” said Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
“I’m looking really forward to meeting him. I got to watch him play a lot through his career,” Nick Suzuki said. Staal’s experience will help the development of the Canadiens sophomore player. The coach will be able to adjust Staal’s usage based on game situations.
On Friday, Ducharme said that Staal will likely play on Monday night against the Oilers. The coach needs to identify the player that will have to sit out to make room for the team’s newest acquisition.
Barring an unexpected event, it will be either Paul Byron, Jake Evans, or Artturi Lehkonen, that will scratched against the Oilers. All three players made the decision difficult for the coach.
Byron recorded one goal and two assists in last week’s three games. His goal was scored during a penalty kill, which is his specialty with his speed. Joel Armia‘s absence allows Byron’s salary to fit below the salary cap.
Evans had his best week as a Hab. The stat line shows that he collected two assists, but he contributed in all aspects. He was energetic, aggressive forecheck, strong play on the penalty kill unit, and won 54.8 percent of his faceoffs.
“You think about it a little bit, but I was just playing my game and playing hard. I got a little bit of my confidence back,” Evans answered when asked whether Staal’s acquisition influenced his performance.
Lehkonen tallied one goal and two assists last week, and was key on the penalty kill. “We like his overall game. We like what he brings on the penalty kill. He has good speed and good habits. His stick is always on the puck. He has a good work ethic. He plays the right way. We see some potential offensively there,” Ducharme said on Wednesday.
The Finnish player was subject to trade rumors last week when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Marc Bergevin may be looking at moving Lehkonen by trade deadline in order to create a cap space.
“It’s part of the business. It’s part of hockey. Every time I get on the ice, I’m just focusing on doing the best I can and trying to help the team. I’m just trying not to read anything” Lehkonen commented.
Ducharme reunited the line of Tomas Tatar, Philip Danault, and Gallagher back on March 19th, and it has produced offensively. The team needs their contribution, because the rest of the lines have been struggling to score.
“The chemistry is there. We’ve been playing together for two seasons and we’re getting better and better and capitalizing on our chances. We did it the last two seasons and we’re still doing it this year when our team needs it most,” Danault said.
“We like to play with each other, we understand each other a lot out there,” Tatar added.
The coach split the Jonathan Drouin, and Suzuki duo for Saturday’s game, inserting Corey Perry in Drouin’s spot. “A player like him doesn’t lose their abilities near the net. He produces a lot of things from that spot, both at even-strength and on the power play. The guys that play with him need to take advantage of that in the right way,” Ducharme explained the decision.
The coach was happy with the line’s performance against the Senators. “Playing with Perry, he’s such a smart player and he puts the puck in good positions for you to retrieve it. I know that we talked before the game and he had some great points. You just try to listen to him and go out there and work hard. As we continue, I think we’re going to get better,” Josh Anderson evaluated.
Bergevin Chooses Weber
Following his performance in The Big Marc campaign for McDonald’s, Marc Bergevin added a new ad to his portfolio. “I always knew that Weber was the best choice,” Bergevin says with a chuckle on the advertisement for Weber grills.