For the first time in the history of the National Hockey League, the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings will miss the playoffs in the same season. In fact, if you asked management about tonight, if they were honest, they would say a loss would be a better result for their future in this one. But players and coaches don’t care about that. They care about doing well, so on the ice there was still a story to tell. So to the Wilde Horses we go…
- Noah Juulsen is too often the best defenceman on the Habs in the last quarter of the season. I say “too often” because he is the 5-6 defenceman on the Habs. He shouldn’t be the best, so this fact is showing the concern about Alzner and Schlemko every night, but at the same time, the Habs should consider themselves fortunate that he sure has been a pleasant surprise since coming to the club after injury. There have not been many good stories, but Juulsen is one. He was on the ice for the Larkin goal to tie it at one but Larkin took Alzner’s side on the rush…. smartly. A power play in the second period and Juulsen was blocking shots with pride like the cup was on the line. He was actually hurt by the first shot and was still in pain, but he got back up and made the choice to block another one. When he got to the bench, there was a lot of respect shown by the Habs players who know they’re with an NHLer.
- Nic Deslauriers with another two goals as he continues the surprising season. Deslauriers has certainly slowed down but at the same time he is still scoring and on this club, that is 30th in the league in goals, that’s saying something. Deslauriers has 10 goals on the season now. He had 12 in his entire career in over 200 games before coming to Montreal. That’s crazy.
- Artturi Lehkonen spend most of the season at two goals. He now has 12. He has seven goals in his last 14 games. Don’t worry about him. He had a lot go wrong this year and he still got 12. Not saying he has 30 in him, but he has 20.
- The Habs second goal had so much to love. Brendan Gallagher with the sweet pass to Jonathan Drouin on the two on none. Drouin can shoot it, but shows an unselfish attitude and sends it back to Gallagher who has a gaping net. Beautifully done by both players. Drouin continues his better second half of a season than the first half. Drouin has 12 points in his last 13 games. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels had a good number that Drouin is this season at .59 points per game and his career average is .58. That shows that he is right where he has always been. However, I am going to take that half full glass and put some water in it on this one. Drouin is playing on the 30th team in scoring in the NHL whereas last season he was on a scoring power. That actually shows that as a percentage of points available on his team that Drouin is improving. He just turned 23 years of age and lost essentially a season, so I say that his progression, like most players at 23, has not stopped yet. I expect improvements from Drouin still. Add to the fact, that he was learning a new position this season that also made it harder. I believe he belongs back on the wing and playing there with a great center, he can achieve in the .80 points per game number. I’m not sure if he is a PPG player but he should be with his skill set, but he has not truly played every game in a season with confidence. His confidence has always just come in spurts. Those moments where one night he is carrying it around the ice for 40 seconds before scoring, then other nights, he is quiet. We shall see, but my glass half full is actually three quarters full.
- Karl Alzner. I am not sure what they are going to do, but they have to come up with something. The buy out is extraordinarily expensive, so that’s not a lot of fun to have to do. No one is going to take this player off their hands for any price. Anyone can see how poorly he is playing, so you’re not making a trade unless you throw in a draft pick too and the NHL won’t let you do that trade. So I come back to the harder answer and that is to buy out the contract. If he is one of your six defenceman next season, then you are losing with him on the ice. I don’t see how next year is any different for Alzner. On the first goal, he got walked by Dylan Larkin. On the second goal, he was doing Dorothy Hamill pirouettes trying to find his way. He did not. Two minuses for Alzner and they are pretty much on him. Marc Bergevin’s worst moment in his career. This is a tough signing. Four more years. Wow.
- Here’s another signing on the blue line from last summer without seeing a player in their uniform: David Schlemko. They keep telling me that this player has a lot more to show. Well, I am telling you….. I’m waiting and running out of games. Schlemko is not good. He just isn’t good. His decision making isn’t good. He is not fast enough. He is not tough enough to win puck battles. I’m not sure what skill he has that makes him better than what I see? They say he is better than this. Well, at what? For example, you watch Victor Mete and right away you say “well kid, if you continue to move fast on your feet you can avoid a lot of those physical battles that you are too small for. Just keep skating away from a slower opposition with the puck.” Great, that works for Mete. What does Schlemko do to win the battle? No clue from this journalist. So that’s Alzner and Schlemko on your blue line for next season? How about Benn who was in the press box and who they could not find a taker for at the trading deadline? Geoff Molson says that Bergevin and he have talked about a plan to improve for next season. This plan better be courageous. If this play is simply Price will be better, than here’s some truth laid bare…. get ready for 28th again. A better Price isn’t a saviour.
- Antti Niemi won’t be offered a contract for next season as they already signed Charlie Lindgren to a one way deal. They also have many goalies in the pipeline, so it isn’t happening here for Niemi, but I sure would think someone will find a spot for this 930 goalie for Montreal. He sure deserves it. What a fighter. I have so much respect for this man. He came as the laughing stock of the league and all he did was work his ass off to find his game. He and Stephane Waite did it together. Fantastic work ethic. Fantastic character.