Canadiens need more from Jonathan Drouin

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens. 

On the surface, Jonathan Drouin‘s 2018-19 season doesn’t look too bad. The 24-year-old finished with 18 goals and respectable 53 points in 81 contests, but there was plenty of disappointment, too. When the Canadiens needed him most, he was a no-show.

The Habs were in a fight for their playoff lives over the final quarter of the season. Despite picking up 96 points, they still missed the postseason by a hair (Columbus finished two points ahead of them in the chase for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference).

Drouin, who is arguably the most talented player on the roster, turned in a big four-point performance against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 26, but he vanished after that point. For a lot of players, picking up points isn’t the only way to contribute to your team’s success, but Drouin doesn’t offer much else. Don’t get it twisted, being a key offensive cog is important, but when you aren’t scoring, what else are you doing to help?

[MORE: 2018-19 Review | X-factor | Three questions]

If you include the four points he picked up in the game against Detroit, Drouin finished the year with seven points in his final 26 games. If you start counting his production after that game, he had three points in his final 18 games (two in one game against the Islanders and one in a meaningless game on the final night of the season).

Yeah, those numbers aren’t pretty.

“From that stretch of not being consistent and not producing, you can gain from that if you look at it the right way,” Drouin said in May, per the Montreal Gazette. “I think I’m able to look at it the right way and in the summer I will look at it the right way. What happened? What changed? I’m not just going to blow that off and go do my summer. I want to look at why. What were the reasons why I wasn’t producing? There was something going on. For me, it’s just to look at that stuff and make sure you’re mature about it and take the good from the bad a little bit. Not just look at how bad it was. For me, if I can take some good stuff and positive stuff — I don’t know really right now what it is and can’t give you a really special word for it — but you got to find a way to gain from that.”

When he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, he was expected to be a first-line offensive talent that the Habs were badly lacking. Yes, Drouin made progress from year 1 in Montreal (46 points while struggling at center) to year 2, but they’ll need him to take a massive leap this upcoming season.

And although Montreal’s brutal power play shouldn’t fall on one player’s shoulders, Drouin has to take part of the blame for that, too. The Habs were consistently bad on the man-advantage throughout the year. Only the Nashville Predators had a worse success rate on the power play. When you miss the postseason by two points, that’s one of the things you look back on with regret.

All in all, it wasn’t a disastrous season for Drouin, but the vanishing act he performed over the final quarter really hurt his team. He can’t afford to do that again.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.