The month of December started off well but ended badly for the Canadiens, with 6 wins and 9 losses in a tough schedule that saw the club going 2-5 on an awful
year end road trip. Both the offence and the defence struggled: the Habs scored 37 goals while allowing 45, and suffered some difficulties. The entire team had issues. In October and November, team identity was strong throughout; sadly, it was invisible in December. Things that are working: the goaltending is not terrible, and the penalty kill unit is spectacular (only 20 PP GA in 164 times shorthanded all season!). Things to work on: the offence, defence, and power play. Read on for individual
grades and recaps of all Habs players for the month of December.
Carey Price A-
Price had a so-so month. It started out well, but then he began giving up 4 and 5 goal games when the team was having scoring troubles, so that led to quite a few losses. On the road trip I thought I saw a bit of last year’s Price in the net, with the defeated look and bad body language. In addition, he gave up 10 PP goals, versus only 4 in November. To his credit, though, Price has continued to make great saves and keep the team in contention almost every night. The entire team was not functioning at the end of the season and it’s hardly fair to blame Price for it. He does have to pick up his game, adjust his focus, and ensure that mid-season fatigue does not become an issue. Price gets an A- only because Martin shares the blame in his recent regression by overusing him.
Alex Auld B+
The Habs’ backup goaltender started 2 games in December, losing the first against Toronto and winning the second against Florida. He also played 7:50 in the game against Tampa Bay, after Price was pulled. This was an opportunity, since the Habs were losing the game anyway, to warm up Auld for the next night. I think the biggest lesson in December was that while Price is certainly young and healthy enough to deal with a heavy game-load, he should be rested more often in order to keep him mentally sharp. By which I mean, I’d like to see Auld play more.
Josh Gorges A+
Gorges was finally rested near the end of the month, and is now on IR. He appears to be rehabbing a right knee injury. I want him to take all the time he needs to heal, because when he is healthy he is by far
the team’s best defenceman. You rarely see him make a mistake or get caught out of position. I’m glad that the Wisnewski acquisition and Weber
recall have made it possible to rest Gorges.
James Wisnewski A+
The acquisition from the Islanders opened his Canadiens debut with a bang. Two, in fact. In his first game as a Hab, Wisnewski scored two goals – including the game-winner in OT. He accomplished these feats by a) showcasing his bullet from the point and b) driving to the net and putting in a rebound. Congratulations, and may we celebrate many more points with this fantastic player. His defensive skills are above
average as well, and his crisp passing is refreshing. He’s the first Habs defenceman this season (other
than Markov) to make a good, even excellent, first pass.
Hal Gill A
Enough cannot be said about how wonderful Gill is on the PK. He and his far-reaching stick have taken away many a puck from opposing players. Continues to be amazing. Good for second on the team in blocked shots with 79.
Roman Hamrlik A-
The December slump affected everyone on the team, Hamrlik included. He seems exhausted, but continues to scrape out a good effort most games. He had two goals and six assists, amassed 24 minutes in penalties, and there was only one game where he played under 20 minutes. He also has a team-high 85 blocked shots so far this season.
Yannick Weber A-
Playing only nine games in December, Weber picked up just 2 assists. His play has improved – he had a rocky start to the month – and for a rookie who no one thought would be NHL material, he’s made a good impression.
Alexandre Picard B
2 goals, 2 assists for the journeyman defenceman who was an early season surprise. His level of play was steadily decreasing, and Picard is now a press box regular. He’ll probably see some ice time in January, and I hope we see a return to his steady, no-mistake style.
Jaroslav Spacek B
We didn’t see any goals from Spacek in December, but he did have two assists. His style of play is so entertaining, it makes up for the total brain-dead plays he makes (like passing the puck straight to the opposition for no visible reason…). He seems to be incorporating some soccer plays into his game, where he kicks the puck with his skates and makes the most interesting moves.
P.K. Subban B
After sitting several games this month, Subban is now back in the lineup. He had a goal and an assist in December, and it’s difficult to assess where this rookie is so far in his development. He continues to make mistakes like going for a hit and taking himself out of plays … which leads to goals against. He’s going to be a high-risk, high-reward experiment all season long. He did seem tentative in some December games, as if he were afraid to make a play for fear of screwing up, which won’t get him or the team anywhere. His enthusiasm for the game is a great asset, but must be tempered in a gentle way.
Tomas Plekanec A+
The energy he brings to every shift, and his hard work in all three zones, really makes Plekanec the best all-around player on the team. He had 3 goals and 5 assists in December, and is the teams’ best in the faceoff circle. He’s taken about three hundred more of those than Scott Gomez this season.
He is, as always, contributing on the PK to great effect. The way he’s constantly looking for the puck, I’m just waiting for him to finally pot one on a shorthanded breakaway.
Brian Gionta A
I’m a little disappointed with the captain. I thought, during the abysmal road trip, that he would be the one rallying the troops and basically doing the leadership thing on the ice. I don’t know what goes on in the room, but on the ice, I expected more from him. He was mostly invisible during the aforementioned road trip, and I expect him to pick up his game and lead this team out of its current mid-season slump. He did have 6 goals and one assist in December though, so a
decent month points-wise for the captain.
Max Pacioretty A
What a difference a year makes. Pacioretty is playing with energy and enthusiasm. He is using his big body to drive the net and screen opposing goalies, and I’ve seen quite a few shots going in because he’s standing in front of the net. This is something we haven’t seen a Canadien doing in the past few seasons. Pacioretty had two goals and two assists in 9 games in December.
Scott Gomez A-
I’m beginning to appreciate the way he zooms into the offensive zone at top speed, blows by defencemen, and creates chances. Gomez had 3 goals and 10 assists in December, but is a -7, the worst differential in the top 6. However, he has really picked up the pace. He is not as invisible and ineffective as he was at the start.
Mike Cammalleri A-
Cammalleri had five goals and eight assists in December. While more than he had in November, the stats, again, don’t tell the whole story. While not appearing edgy or frustrated, he seems to have gone completely cold emotionally. There seems to be no passion from him, and he appears to be playing as an individual, as opposed to a part of the team. He’s taking shots that would have been sure goals last year and missing the net or shooting straight at the goalie. I don’t know how many times I can say this, but there is something wrong with
him and I’d like – nay, I’m pleading, demanding – with management to get to the bottom of this.
Mathieu Darche A-
Darche had three goals and three assists in December, and just like Jeff Halpern, has disappeared a little bit. He’s still going to the net and forechecking hard, but a turnstile of linemates has affected production for the entire bottom six.
Andrei Kostitsyn B
Continues to be enigmatic. Kostitsyn is +6, the best on the team – surprisingly. He picked up a goal and 4 assists which is a disappointing turnout. With Maxim Lapierre gone, he now leads the team with 72 hits.
Jeff Halpern B
Halpern continued to excel on faceoffs in December, but aside from some good PK work, hasn’t done much else. Halpern had just one goal and two assists and has seen linemates come and go, which doesn’t help
his offensive production.
Lars Eller B
One goal and three assists in three games to start the month, but Eller couldn’t get on the scoreboard after that. I would really love to see him with some quality linemates. And while I’m happy to see him develop with the Canadiens, it’s something to consider, sending him to Hamilton to increase his ice time, confidence, and production.
Benoit Pouliot B
Pouliot had two goals and three assists for December. There are games where he seems to be flying, hitting, but then when he gets the puck he can’t score. He either fumbles the puck, shoots wide, or straight at the goalie. Needs to improve.
Maxim Lapierre N/A
After 5 years with the Canadiens organization, Maxim Lapierre is now an Anaheim Duck. I enjoyed his early years and wished to see him succeed, but seasons of inconsistency did him in. How we all wanted a hometown hero, someone who knew what it meant to be a diehard Hab, but it wasn’t meant to be. Best of luck in Anaheim, Maxim. Interesting final stat for Lapierre, who wore number 40: 40 goals, 40 assists.
Travis Moen C
A quiet month for Moen, as it has been for the rest of the bottom 6. I wish Moen could actually score more, oftentimes he is right there in the crease and cannot cash a rebound.
Tom Pyatt C
Pyatt played only ten games in December, and recorded one goal and one assist. After last year’s stellar playoffs, I thought he’d turn out to be a bottom-6 forward with scoring ability and PK skills. Yes, he’s a huge part of the PK success, but needs to find the back of the net more often.