by Chris G, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine
LAVAL, QC. —The Laval Rocket snapped a six game losing streak on Saturday afternoon, thanks to a goal scored by Jake Evans 28 seconds into overtime against the Utica Comets.
This week, the Rocket head to Utica to face the Comets on Wednesday night. That is not a typo. It will be the third time the two teams face each other in a span of six days. Laval will head to Cleveland over the weekend for back-to-back games against the Monsters.
Here are my top 5 takes of the week:
- Scherbak in Laval – The Canadiens sent Nikita Scherbak to the Rocket on Wednesday for conditioning purposes for a maximum of 14 days. After his first game, and not playing for one month Scherbak understandably said “It was a little hard personally in the third period, my legs we’re getting heavier.” But Scherbak said that he felt good in the second frame. On Friday night, Joel Bouchard wasn’t impressed with Scherbak’s performance. Scherbak started the game on a line with Michael McCarron and Byron Froese, but finished the game playing along side Michael Chaput and Alexandre Grenier. “Oof, it was not exactly why the guy was sent for conditioning. To me, its not NHL calibre to play like that [..] he wasn’t very good,” said Bouchard about Scherbak following Friday night’s game. Click here, for exclusive audio of the coach’s comments. On Saturday afternoon, Scherbak played one period before leaving the game due to illness. Assuming that Scherbak wasn’t ill on Friday, I have no issues with Bouchard calling out his player, as I think he should be held to a higher standard, since he’s now a NHL player. Scherbak played well in the offensive zone, but struggled in his own zone. The game’s winning goal was scored because Scherbak let his man wide open in front of the net. On an another note, there were a lot of scouts in attendance at Place Bell since Wednesday night. Coincidence?
- Divisional games– The playoff format in the American Hockey League is not the same like in the National Hockey League. In the AHL, the top four teams of each division quality for the post season, therefore divisional games are the cliche “four-point games.” Laval is currently in game five of a nine-game stretch of facing division rivals, and have only collected three of the possible 10 points. In their only win, their division rivals managed to get a point too. Last season, the Comets finished fourth in the division with 88 points. For the Rocket to finish this season with that amount, they need to play .617 from now until the end of the season. In 2017-18, only eight of the 31 teams in the AHL had a winning percentage of .617 or higher for the season. it’s not impossible to get done, but Laval can’t afford to go on another six game losing streak.
- Lindgren’s numbers – Friday night, Bouchard pulled Charlie Lindgren mid-way into the game after allowing three goals on 18 shots. His statistics up to this point in the season, don’t look good. At the end of Sunday’s games, Lindgren is ranked 46th in the league for save percentage (.875), and 20th for goals against average (2.71). Even though he’s ranked third for minutes played (509:04), Lindgren is ranked 22nd for most shots faced (184). So, he’s played a lot but hasn’t faced many shots. The numbers don’t look great. He’s actually played better than what the statistics show. That being said, Lindgren hasn’t made his team win a game that they didn’t deserve to win. With Antti Niemi being on a one year deal and potentially being moved, with Michael McNiven and Cayden Primeau knocking on the door, this is the time that Lindgren needs to shine in order to become a regular NHL’er.
- Special teams – The team’s biggest struggle continues to be the power-play, scoring just seven goals in 57 opportunities (12.3%), placing them 28th in the AHL as of Sunday. On the other hand, the Rocket leads the league with a 94 percent success rate. There’s a saying in hockey that you shouldn’t be concerned if the special team’s percentages add up to at least 100 percent. Laval’s adds up to 106 percent. That means the coaching staff shouldn’t be concerned with the power play. I think I’d be good at coaching.
- ECHL affiliation – Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen Rocket players get assigned and called up from multiple East Coast Hockey League teams. That is the case, cause the Canadiens didn’t renew their affiliation with the Brampton Beast for this season and decided to spread players across various teams in the ECHL. I reached out to former NHL General Manager and current TSN’s Director of Scouting, Craig Button, to get his thoughts on the importance of having a sole affiliation. “I don’t think you need to have a sole affiliation but you do need to be able to call on a pool of players” said Button. As the season progresses, and injuries happen in Montreal and Laval, it will be interesting to see if this will have a negative impact.
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