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In Hainsight: RHP Had a Party

March 26, 2023, 2:23 PM ET [89 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow me @KarineHains for all updates about the Montreal Canadiens and women's hockey

Results matter very little this season, but some would argue that it mattered a lot last night and that the Canadiens were on the wrong side of the decision. But it is what it is and you cannot ask professional athletes to lose on purpose, besides, games like these are good for team morale and after a really tough stretch in the calendar, it must have felt great for the Habs to have a bit of fun.

A few things were evident in this 8-2 routing of the Blue Jackets. Firstly, the Petry-Matheson trade is looking better by the day. Matheson is younger, cheaper and he’s slowly but surely getting into the “best puck moving defenseman the Canadiens have had since Markov” territory. In his last seven games, he’s recorded 3 goals and 5 assists and it’s the way he picks them up as well. Driving the net, joining the rush but being committed to a 200-foot game all along nonetheless. “He’s here, he’s there, he’s (insert bad word here) everywhere!” as the crowd chants for Roy Kent in Ted Lasso. Considering Kent Hughes had next to no leverage to pull off that trade since the whole league knew Petry wanted out, it’s insane that he managed to get such a great return.

Secondly, Rafael Harvey-Pinard had himself heck of a second period getting himself a hat trick and making the crowd absolutely roar. The Bell Centre crowd is always happy to cheer on “un petit gars de chez nous”, and it was insanely obvious last night. In his rookie season, Harvey-Pinard now has 12 goals in 29 games and he’s fast becoming both a fan and a coach favorite. More than his offensive output, it’s the little things that Martin St-Louis notices in his game saying he does all the things a coach likes; he’s got an active stick to break passing plays, he block shots, he backchecks and he’s got an excellent work ethic.

All that being said and even though I stand by my statement that Harvey-Pinard should have a spot in Montreal next season, I hope this kind of performance doesn’t give fans unrealistic expectations. It’s important to remember that Harvey-Pinard was a 7th round pick, 201st overall and that under regular circumstances, he wouldn’t be riding shotgun with Nick Suzuki on the team’s first line. Furthermore, right now, he’s got a 25% shooting percentage which is just completely unsustainable, I mean Teemu Selanne had a 15% career shooting percentage and Alex Ovechkin is at 13%. The Montreal crowd is often quick to crown new favorite and can turn vicious when they fall short of their unrealistic expectations. Hopefully, we do not have another Ryan Poehling scenario on our hands, that 4-goal first game was far from a god send for the 25th overall pick.

I liked the fact that last night, Stephane Leroux from RDS pointed out that sometimes, it can be good to draft local players with late picks, I couldn’t help but reply that yet, when the Habs do it, the fans are quick to say that they picked a late token Quebecer just to shut up the critics… Can’t have it both ways, which one is it? We’ll see how well Harvey-Pinard does next season but for now, it’s easy to see why Laval Rocket fans call him Lavallagher, he gives his all for the team and he’s there at both ends of the ice.

Now that we’ve covered Lavallagher, let’s talk about Gallagher. In his 3rd game since coming back from yet another injury, Gallagher notched a goal and an assist and looked much more comfortable out there. Post game, he was quick to sing Harvey-Pinard’s praises even though in the long run, he’s probably a threat to his own position on the team.

I’ve seen a lot of chatter about buying out Gallagher lately and I think it’s absolute nonsense for 3 reasons. Right now, the Canadiens is not ready to be a contender, they’re not in the “let’s go out and sign complementary pieces on the free agent market for big bucks” phase, they do not need the money, not yet in any case. What the Habs are ready to do though and are doing is building a good culture and Gallagher is pretty much the poster boy for that. He’s got splendid work ethics, works hard at both ends of the ice and is perhaps the best role model the young Canadiens could get. Finally, it’s all well and good to do a rebuild but it’s also good to have some stability and I believe this is what the Habs brass had in mind when they gave Gallagher an A on his jersey. You can’t get rid of all the veterans; you need to keep some to support your youth. In any case, at this rate, Gallagher will more than likely end his contract on LTIR since he’s getting injured much too often. A buyout would also have implications on the cap for 8 years, meaning it would get in the way when the Habs are ready to compete and need the money.

Nick Suzuki also had quite a game last night with 4 points, giving him 8 in 3 games on the week. His points total currently stands at 61 which ties his career best output from last season and he’s still got 9 games to pad up that total. It’s also worth mentioning that he was -29 last season while he’s at -8 this year. The captain has definitely improved at both ends of the ice and when you think that he’s producing at that rhythm without regular linemates and on a low scoring team it can only lead to one conclusion: Suzuki will be at least a point-per-game producer. Give him a full season of Caufield riding shotgun on his wing and his points total will see a hefty boost in production.

The Canadiens will be very busy this week with 4 games on the schedule. They’ll take on the Sabres on Monday, the Flyers on Tuesday, the Panthers on Thursday and the Hurricanes on Saturday.
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