Laval Rocket AHL Playoff Push May Depend On One Game
The Laval Rocket know what’s at stake in the final stretch of the season.
Following a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals on March 24th, the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate has found its rhythm, earning four wins in a row, including a come-from-behind victory over the very same Admirals on April 1st.
Thanks to their resurgence, Laval is currently in a playoff position, holding the fifth and final spot in the North Division.
With 19 goals in their last four games, not only are they scoring at will, but they’re receiving offence from various players in the lineup. 10 different players found the back of the net during their hot stretch.
No other player has helped more than the newly-arrived Emil Heineman.
The 2020 second-round pick has scored six goals since arriving in Laval, including five goals in his last four games. He’s not just quickly acclimatizing to North American hockey, he’s flat-out dominating the AHL since making his debut.
THE MAN DOESN'T MISS!
It's Emil Heineman on the power play! pic.twitter.com/2tFVn8h1E1
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 2, 2023
He’s taking almost four shots on net per game, taking advantage of his NHL-calibre shot to inflict damage on the Rocket’s opponents.
The other player keeping the Rocket in the mix is goaltender Cayden Primeau.
We all know consistency has been missing from his game since he made his NHL debut back in 2020, but Primeau has played much better of late, displaying a .916 save percentage since March 1st.
Unfortunately, the Rocket will have to do without Primeau, as he’s been recalled to the NHL due to the endless stream of injuries associated with the Canadiens.
Primeau may return to the AHL at some point, but for now, head coach Jean-Francois Houle will have to rely on veteran Kevin Poulin, who has struggled this season, and Jakub Dobes, who represents the Canadiens’ best goaltender in the prospect pool.
Even though the Laval Rocket are currently in a playoff spot, having an opportunity to win the Calder Cup is far from a guarantee, seeing as their main competitors for the final playoff spot in the division, the Cleveland Monsters, have two games in hand.
The Belleville Senators technically represent a threat to the Rocket, but truth be told, they’re a rather awful team that struggles to win, as evidenced by their three wins in the last 10 games. It’s doubtful they can make up the gap in points with just five games remaining on their schedule.
Cleveland, on the other hand, has a shot.
Yes, they’re three games behind, but they have 14 points up for grabs, compared to just 10 for the Rocket.
Laval will face Cleveland on April 6th, which may end up being the deciding game for the final playoff position. If the Rocket can hold off the Monsters, their playoff odds will increase significantly.
If they lose against Cleveland, things get rather complicated.
Of the four remaining games on the schedule, one is against the division-leading Toronto Marlies and two are against the Syracuse Crunch, who are second in the division. Fortunately, they have one game left against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, who happen to be one of the worst teams in the league.
The Monsters, on the other hand, will face the lowly Senators twice, as well as middling Rochester Americans on two occasions. Of the remaining three games, they face the Rocket, the Grand Rapids Griffins, and the Utica Comets. The Griffins are last in their division, whereas the Comets are third in theirs.
Cleveland has decent odds of beating the Senators, not to mention the Americans. If they can sweep both two-game series, they’ll need just one or two wins to cement their playoff spot.
Fortunately, they’re tending downward while the Rocket are climbing the standings, which puts momentum firmly at the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate’s back.
If the Laval Rocket can beat Cleveland on Friday, they won’t just earn two crucial points in the standings, they’ll also swing the odds in their favour for earning the last playoff spot in the North Division.
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