With all eyes on Laval, the Rocket took to the ice for the start of their inaugural season with high expectations. The roster had been overhauled after the final game played by the St. John’s IceCaps, with several veterans added to a lineup that features a number of highly skilled young prospects. AHL President David Andrews, Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and Montreal legend Guy Lafleur were a few of the major names on hand for the pre-game puck drop.
The early momentum leaned heavily toward the side of the Belleville Senators, who dominated the shot clock to start the game. That momentum came to a screeching halt rather quickly however, as Andreas Englund took a hooking penalty after being beaten by Nikita Scherbak.
The Rocket wasted no time on the power play, with Daniel Audette cashing in on a loose puck in front of the net, and tallying the first goal in Laval Rocket history.
With around five minutes remaining in the period it would again be Scherbak acting as the catalyst for a goal. The Muscovite broke in through the neutral zone, blew by a pair of Belleville defenders, and fed Michael McCarron for the Rocket’s second goal of the period.
Charlie Lindgren was flawless in the opening period, turning away all 13 shots he faced, though he wasn’t seriously threatened by any Belleville chances.
The middle period didn’t yield any goals, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying from the Laval team. Peter Holland had a break in close that was shut down by Danny Taylor, who also snagged a prime scoring chance from Audette who had cut into the slot uncontested.
Outside of a fight between Jeremy Grégoire and Patrick Sieloff, the second period lacked any real flow or excitement to it. Both teams traded penalties late, but neither was able to capitalize on their man advantage before the horn.
Leading 2-0 through 40 minutes, the Rocket did well to fend off any Belleville attacks, limiting the Senators to just seven shots in the final period. The home side did take five penalties in the final frame, but Charlie Lindgren turned them aside, keeping a perfect penalty kill intact for the first game.
Nicolas Deslauriers deposited the puck into the empty net and secure the 3-0 victory on opening night.
Deslauriers into the empty net and the Rocket are going to pick up a shutout victory in their first game pic.twitter.com/Q9pXJlTbhx— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 7, 2017
Much like the Canadiens’ first game, there was plenty to get excited about, but also a few minor tweaks that can be made going forward. Firstly, the penalty kill was dominant on the night, killing off all eight power plays the Senators had. That ties into the fact that the team could tighten up just a little bit, and try to cut down on the penalties, especially when leading late in the game.
However, what was very evident is that the the team has plenty of speed and skill this season. Defencemen were carrying the puck out of their own zone and making passes in the neutral zone, as opposed to chipping it off the glass and out. The forwards used their speed to gain the zone with the puck, and beat stationary defenders wide a number of times, resulting in them being forced into taking a penalty.
Scherbak deserves high praise for his performance. He collected an assist, and was arguably the best player on the ice for either side.
Laval Rocket statistics from tonight's game. Scherbak w/ team-high 4 primary shot assists. McCarron, Froese, Holland w/ big contributions. pic.twitter.com/xwHKRQiUhf— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) October 7, 2017
His line with McCarron and Chris Terry were unlucky to not have scored more, and were tough to take off the puck. For all the concern over Scherbak in the pre-season, he seems to be doing just fine, and could very well be a solid call-up option sooner rather than later.
1. Daniel Audette (1 goal, first ever for the franchise)
2. Charlie Lindgren (26 saves, shutout victory)
3. Michael McCarron (1 goal 1 assist)
The Rocket will be back in action on Saturday, October 7 when they host the Belleville Senators in a rematch. While most of the roster will likely be the same, Jakub Jerabek will make his debut, and Zachary Fucale could be taking over between the ppes.