NHL Player of the Month: Jake Allen
February was a much more difficult month for the Montreal Canadiens than what they enjoyed in January. As they flipped the page on the calendar, the Habs held a 5-1-2 record despite a long season-opening road trip. From the 12 games in February, that record was 4-5-3.
Responsible for two of the wins — and, more importantly, just one of the regulation losses — was Jake Allen. With him in net for five starts, the Canadiens earned six of a possible 10 points. He allowed an average of 2.37 goals in those games, and had a save percentage of .927, ranking 11th in the NHL among goaltenders with at least three games played in the four-week span. He even showed off some decent puck-handling skills to help a beleaguered defence through some issues.
Jake Allen might have made the best pass by a Hab tonight pic.twitter.com/aTiLwNt9cN— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 22, 2021
Of course, we can’t present this award to Allen without having to walk around the giant elephant in the room, and that is the play of Carey Price. As has become a trend, the Canadiens’ starting netminder is off to a rough start, with a few great outings peppered among more numerous poor ones. His confidence is obviously low, and he wasn’t providing the solid backing the defence needed to hang in games.
If this had been a season with a backup like Antti Niemi or Keith Kinkaid as the secondary option, the Habs probably wouldn’t still be sitting in a post-season spot. Price would have been forced to play nearly every night, and now that the compressed season has hit its toughest stretch, he’d be battling not only his struggles, but feeling the effects of fatigue as well. Marc Bergevin recognized the need to add a more competent goaltender to the fold to get more points out of the games the number-two has to play, and that move is proving to be a crucial one at this point of a 56-game campaign. The Canadiens will hope Price can turn things around — and the trend has also been that he does as the season goes on — but Allen’s play will let him work through that battle without dropping Montreal out of the playoff chase in the meantime.
Honourable mention: Jeff Petry
Our player of the month of January continued his great play last month. He once again led the team in points, with 10 in 12 games, including four goals. He did begin to rack up some penalty minutes, however, putting his fellow blue-liners in a bind with five minors.
The points were also well-earned as the Habs controlled 65% of the high-danger chances with him on the ice, and outscored opponents 8-3 on such in-tight opportunities. In many of his seasons since joining the Canadiens, he’s finished the year with a negative goal differential. With over a third of the season played, that one knock on his play has become a big positive.
Laval Rocket Player of the Month: Lukas Vejdemo
It was a hard decision to make because so many players had great months. Vejdemo gets the nod because of his two-way play. He led the Rocket with three goals and six points. He was tied with others, but Vejdemo played one fewer game, and Vejdemo also did it from the bottom of the lineup.
It didn’t matter who Vejdemo played with, he was dangerous and could have probably scored even more goals. He was the best Rocket player in February in a month many players played very well.
This could have easily been Otto Leskinen, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, Jordan Weal, or Jesse Ylönen and it very well may be in future months. But Vejdemo gets the nod this time, and put himself on the radar for another NHL shot.
European Prospect of the Month: Mattias Norlinder
The skilled defender only played seven games due to COVID postponements in the SHL. Having just returned from injury before the month started and being played on the third pairing in Frölunda, Norlinder has managed to not only play well defensively, but has shown bits of the offensive skills that made him a tantalizing prospect and a standout defender at the start of the season before the injuries. In the last games of the month Norlinder had four points in five games.
The two assists were cross-ice passes to open up the ice and get a lateral movement for the goalkeeper. One of the goals Norlinder scored was a rocket straight up over the keeper’s blocker, and the other bounced off a defender. While Frölunda looks a bit disheveled at the moment, Norlinder will look to the upcoming playoffs with confidence in his own game.
North American Prospect of the Month: Sean Farrell
Farrell wrote his name in the record book in February. His historic 24-game point streak ended on the 11th, but his production didn’t slow down after that. After a short two-game stint without a point, Farrell turned the machine back on and further separated from his pursuers — his teammates — at the top of the USHL leaderboard. He scored 21 points in 10 games over the month of February.
No prospect is scoring at the pace of Farrell this season. Of course, what Cole Caufield is accomplishing in the NCAA as a sophomore is more impressive, but Farrell is doing all he can to prove his value in his situation. He plays the hand he has been dealt to its maximum potential. He could have cruised this season, but instead decided to push his offensive game as far he could in the USHL.
You can listen to the new Episode of Habsent Minded, where Andrew Zadarnowski and Patrik Bexell discuss the Players of the Month in more detail.