NHL Player of the Month: Brendan Gallagher
In the opening two months, it looked like the magic was fading for the Canadiens’ most trusted trio; a line that ranked among the very best in terms of chances generated since Tomas Tatar’s arrival to the organization. The new off-season additions and young centres were stealing all the headlines, while Phillip Danault’s line struggled to produce.
That all changed in March when all three players rose to near the top of the team leaderboard. The entire unit deserves this monthly honour, but if we can only pick one, it will be Brendan Gallagher, who more than doubled his season goal total in the 12 games played with seven markers, and added another four assists.
Among the skaters in the NHL who played at least four games, he had the highest expected goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five time, at 1.27. He was getting to his usual place around the net, and his linemates were once more ensuring that he had something to do while he was there.
Montreal’s greatest chance of success comes from having this line commanding the play in its minutes, forcing the opposing coach to divert resources to shutting them down and leaving lesser talents to face the Habs’ middle six. If the top line has returned to form, there should be more comfortable wins as the season progresses, which will make life a lot easier in this heavily compressed schedule.
Honourable mention: Carey Price
When Jake Allen was named our player of the month of February, it was as much a statement about how much Price had been struggling as how well Allen played in his starts. The reason the backup had so much time to impress was because the number one was unable to provide solid performances consistently. Like clockwork, when the season ticked over to its second half, Price’s play saw an instant turnaround. It’s now an established trend in his annual performance, and one we just need to get used to.
In March, that meant a save percentage of .931, his first shutout in the final game on the month’s schedule, and just a single regulation loss in nine starts. He’s taken back the reins from what had been split duties with Allen, and looks more like the goaltender who helped take the team on a surprising post-season run one year ago.
AHL Player of the Month: Ryan Poehling
The Laval Rocket put together an absolutely dominant month of March, capping it off with a 7-0-1 road trip that pushed them to the top of the Canadian Division by an astounding 12 points. A huge part of that was the top line of Joseph Blandisi, Ryan Poehling, and Joël Teasdale.
The second-year forward has re-established himself as a prospect worth paying attention to, with four goals and seven assists in 13 games played. Poehling was a driving force on his line, one that had to eat a ton of heavy minutes as the injuries piled up over the course of their final road trip. While his defensive play and work on the penalty kill were inspired once again, the growth in Poehling’s offensive game is what earns him this nod.
Part of that is Poehling being far more willing to use his shot and put pucks on net compared to last year. In 16 fewer games, he has nearly matched his shot total from the previous year while surpassing his offensive production. That confidence has helped him to push the Rocket over the line in games they were struggling to win last year.
A better angle.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 19, 2021
Maybe Joël Bouchard can lend Ducharme some OT pointers? pic.twitter.com/WUWdczc23i
With the Rocket severely banged up after their trip, the spotlight is firmly on Poehling to help lead them while the team recovers. Luckily for him, he’ll very likely have Laurent Dauphin returning to help, and the arrival of Cole Caufield to ease the pressure on his line to score.
European Prospect of the Month: Alexander Gordin
Gordin showcased more this month than he had previously in the season, partly because the coverage he received was better, making his skilled moves more notable. He has shown his playmaking ability and his quick hands that can deliver passes and shots with accuracy.
What really has stood out in the past month is his shot. It is highly deceptive, fast, and very, very accurate.
Gordin is also one of the SKA players who stood out in the MHL playoffs, averaging a point per game as SKA went out to Loko in an early exit. In the month of March, Gordin only played six games, but finished with seven points (3G, 4A). With SKA’s VHL team out of the playoffs as well, Gordin wont get a chance in the KHL playoffs,
He now has the chance to work on his biggest weakness,: his skating. He does not need to become a great skater, but anything he can improve will help him take the next step in his career.
North American Prospect of the Month: Cole Caufield
This is the last time I write about Cole Caufield as a prospect. They grow up so fast. Now, it’s on to professional hockey for the diminutive scorer, and that should get everyone excited.
Caufield didn’t leave the NCAA ranks silently. He scored 10 goals in his last five games in March. Ten! As he did for most of the season before, he put his team on his back and carried them through the opposition — again and again.
️ Us: We need a goal here.— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) March 26, 2021
Cole Caufield: Say less.
: Holloway, Pelton-Byce
Watch the Badgers take on Bemidji live on ESPN2! pic.twitter.com/DhooKVZ8mo
His goals allowed the team to stay alive, come back in games, and steal victories. In the end, these solo efforts didn’t prove enough for Wisconsin to advance in the NCAA Tournament, but the scorer truly left it all on the ice. He has nothing more to prove in the NCAA and has outgrown the environment.
It’s now on to an even bigger and brighter spotlight for Caufield.