Hot Tatar leads Canadiens into Vancouver
Tatar, considered an afterthought in the offseason trade that sent Pacioretty to Vegas, has five goals in his past five games as the upstart Habs (10-6-3) prepare to visit the Vancouver Canucks (10-9-2) on Saturday.
"There have been some great additions to the team over the summer and (Tatar's) been one of them," Montreal coach Claude Julien told reporters Friday after a practice at the University of British Columbia.
Junior star Nick Suzuki was considered Montreal's key acquisition in the package deal with the Golden Knights. But after managing just 34 points with Detroit and Vegas combined last season, Tatar, 27, has recorded eight goals and eight assists in 19 games with the Canadiens.
"He's added a punch to our team," said Julien.
Accordingly, the Habs, who made a point of getting younger and faster in the offseason, are showing that they will be playoff contenders after missing the postseason in 2017-18. But Tatar, who had just four goals and two assists with Vegas after leaving Detroit at the trade deadline, attributed his renewed offensive prowess to the club's overall play.
"I think it's a team success," he told reporters after the workout. "When the team is doing well, the individuals are standing up, too. The whole team is playing really well and we're fortunate to score enough goals."
Truth be told, the Habs have played quite well at times and poorly at others -- in the past week alone. The Canadiens pulled out a 3-2 win in Calgary on Thursday, but were humiliated 6-2 in Edmonton two nights earlier. Julien called the setback his team's worst performance of the season.
Meanwhile, the injury-ravaged Canucks are also looking for more consistency. Following an unexpected hot start to their season, the Canucks will play their first home game since their dismal 1-3-2 road trip. They need to get more output from young players not named Elias Pettersson. The 20-year-old rookie has gone pointless in the past four games after producing 10 goals and seven assists in his first 11 contests.
Fellow rookie Adam Gaudette is showing signs that he could do more. Promoted from the minors due to the rash of injuries, Gaudette, 22, posted an assist in Thursday's loss in Minnesota.
The Braintree, Minn., native has yet to score a goal after playing 16 games with the Canucks this season and five contests in 2017-18 after his final collegiate campaign with Northeastern, where he earned the Hobey Baker award as the top U.S. college player. But he has not looked out of place with the Canucks after being expected to spend most of this season in the minors. He is trying to stick through strong two-way play rather than the offensive talents that he displayed in college.
"You know, I'm not worried about the scoring right now," he told Sportsnet.ca. "Once I get one, hopefully, (the production) will start rolling. Every game, every shift, I just feel more and more like I belong out there."
The center was promoted on an emergency basis after middlemen Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle went down with injuries. Gaudette has effectively displaced versatile forward Brendan Gaunce, who can play both center and wing. Gaunce has been banished to the press box for the past six games -- after producing three points in his previous two outings.
"Gaunce can play, but I haven't found a spot that makes sense," Canucks coach Travis Green told Postmedia. "And, I'm not going to play a guy just to play."
That comment could be tacit praise for Gaudette -- and a warning to underachieving Canucks.