LAVAL, QC. — The Canadiens lost two of the three games they played this week with losses to the Stars and the Lightning. The Habs win came in a 6-4 game against the Capitals in a game that had scoring, lead changes, historic moment, and a Canadiens victory. “We are in the entertainment business after all,” said Claude Julien earlier this season, and Thursday night’s game will be one that Habs fans will remember for a long time.
There are four games on the schedule for the Canadiens this week, begin with back-to-back games in New York against the Islanders on Monday and the Rangers on Tuesday, before coming back home to face the Sabres on Thursday and then Max Pacioretty comes to town with his new team on Saturday.
Here are my top 5 takes of the week:
- Upcoming decisions – On Saturday, Tomas Plekanec returned to practice with his teammates and earlier in the week, Julien said that David Schlemko will start to practice with the team this week. Two healthy bodies returning means that there will be roster decisions that will need to be made by the management team. Assuming that Paul Byron will return to the team before the end of the week, the Canadiens will have 25 players on their roster once Plekanec and Schlemko get cleared to play. That’s two more than the limit. There are three players that are waiver exempt and can be sent to the AHL directly: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Victor Mete, and Noah Juulsen. Based on the fact that Nikita Scherbak hasn’t played a game in Montreal this season, and comments that Joel Bouchard made on Friday night in Laval, I expect Scherbak to be the odd man out from the forwards. On defence, we recently saw Victor Mete be healthy scratches, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he heads to Laval and waits for a call up when a roster spot becomes available.
- Kotkaniemi fairy tale – You probably realized that I didn’t mention Jesperi Kotkaniemi as a potential roster move for the Canadiens, and that’s because Kotkaniemi isn’t going anywhere any time soon. During a press conference, Bergevin mentioned that the plan is to keep the 18-year old with the team, but there’s always the possibility for them to make a decision later on this season if they feel that Montreal isn’t the best place for him to continue his development. On Thursday night, Kotkaniemi scored his first career NHL goal and the building erupted. All of his teammates celebrated the goal like it was their first career goal. Jesperi also scored the tying goal of that game that began the team’s comeback win against the Capitals. When being named the first star of the game, he was overwhelmed with his emotions and the overwhelming energy from the crowd, that he barely was able to speak to RDS’ Marc Denis. Oh, he also got involved in a post-whistle scrum, where he pushed around some opponents to defend himself. I would say that he’s quickly adopting to North American hockey.
- Gallagher 30+ goals? – Brendan Gallagher scored three goals this week to give him a total of nine for the season. Brian Savage, in 1999, was the last player to score as many goals for the Canadiens in the first 12 games of a season. He finished the season with 17 goals in 38 games. Gallagher is on pace to score 56 goals this season, which we all know that it won’t happen. If he remains healthy, he will have a second consecutive 30-plus goal season. The talk about Gallagher has always been about his heart, and the effort level that he displays every single shift. I think that we have reached the point that we should add his goal scoring ability when we talk about him.
- Hudon trade bait – TSN’s Frank Seravalli published his first trade bait board of the season, and I was surprised when I saw Charles Hudon’s name at number 15 on the list. I do expect Bergevin to complete a trade at some point this season involving a roster player, but Hudon isn’t the name that comes to my mind. Plekanec, Jordie Benn, and Antti Niemi are the only unrestricted free agents on the roster, so I would think that one of them would be more probable trade bait than Hudon. This season, we have seen the best and worst of Hudon. Just this week, we saw him play his best game of the season against the Stars when he replaced Byron on a line with Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia, and then on Saturday, Claude Julien noted that Hudon’s defensive lapses led to two Lightning goals.
- Radulov snubs media – When the Stars were in town last week, Montreal media asked to speak to Alex Radulov at two different occasions and the former Hab declined both requests. He told media after the game to “talk to Bergevin”, which shows that he’s sour about the last contract negotiations with the organization. To refresh your memories, Bergevin’s and Radulov’s recollection of the negotiation’s don’t match. That being said, if Radulov loved the city and the fans as much as he was repeated last season, I think that he should have addressed the media during his visit, and politely decline to comment on the negotiations.
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