With the playoffs just around the corner, the Montreal Canadiens have secured a solid grip on 6th place in the Eastern Conference. Earning 14 of a possible 26 points, the Habs went 6-5-2 and had an up-and-down month. The most bizarre, eventful game was an 8-6 loss to the Boston Bruins, a match filled with scraps
and melees. The teams combined for 192 penalty minutes and we saw Carey Price take down Tim Thomas with one punch.
The other major event of the month, the much-vaunted outdoor Heritage Classic was a non-classic for both teams involved. The ice was terrible and the Habs had no jump, no intensity and were shut out in Calgary.
Read on for individual rankings and recaps of all Habs players for the month of February.
Carey Price: A
Another month, another Molson Cup for Carey Price. That makes it the fourth time he’s earned it this season. Price had two shutouts in February, one against Toronto and the other facing the Rangers. In the game against New York, Price made 19 saves in the third period to preserve the shutout and win. He went 4-5-1 with a save percentage of .916 and often kept the score close to give the team a chance at a win. Price was called upon to replace Auld Feb 24, after Toronto put three quick goals past the backup. He performed well, but the Habs were unable to surmount the difficult start to the game and lost 5-4. Still, a good month for Price.
Alex Auld: B
Auld appeared in four games in February, doubling his number of starts from the previous month. He had two solid wins against Florida and Carolina, one overtime loss to the Islanders, and was pulled in the above-mentioned Toronto game. He’s doing his job as a backup but did not shine.
Hal Gill: A
Gill missed four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury, but thankfully it wasn’t serious. The Canadiens can hardly afford to lose another defenceman. Gill blocked 27 shots in February, is a big part of the PK success, and played well defensively with no major gaffes or mistakes.
Roman Hamrlik: A
Hamrlik had a team-high 9 assists and was number one in blocked shots as well, with 35. He has seen his ice time reduced with the
Brent Sopel acquisition, which makes Hamrlik a much better player.
James Wisniewski: A-
The Wiz’s production slumped in February, with one goal and five assists. He
was weak defensively as well. It wasn’t the best month for Wisniewski, who is tapering off after a strong start with the Habs, but he
remains useful nonetheless, especially on the PP.
Paul Mara: A
Welcome back to Montreal, Paul! Now down to business: Mara did a good job in the three games he played, he was solid, smart, and added some physicality to the Habs’ back end.
Yannick Weber: B
Weber had a goal and three assists in February and was dressed for all 13 games. Defensively, Weber has really improved. He makes a couple of mistakes here and there, but has really tightened up his game.
P.K. Subban: B
A successful month for Subban: two goals and seven assists. However, he’s recently developed a knack for taking stupid penalties and is also guilty of taking himself out of the play in order to make thunderous checks. But due to the many D-men injuries, Subban is playing lead minutes and has not been given the chance to develop at the feet of a veteran like Markov or Gill. Also, Coach Martin has decided, for the moment, that P.K. is more important on the PK than the PP, causing his offensive stats to suffer.
Jaroslav Spacek: B-
Spacek played 7 games before being sidelined with a knee injury. We now know he will undergo arthroscopic surgery to ‘clean it up’ and he will be out for 4-6 weeks, just in time for the playoffs.
Alexandre Picard: C+
Picard was dressed for just six games in February and had one assist. In the February 5th game against the Rangers,
he blocked a shot in the dying seconds of the third to preserve Price’s shutout. He’s good to have for depth, but with the acquisitions of Mara, Sopel and Wisniewski, he’s just not good enough to crack the lineup.
Tomas Plekanec: A+
He had four goals and five assists in February, and was +5, the best differential on the team.
He still has some off nights but, excepting Carey Price, he continues to be the Canadiens’ best player. Plekanec also improved in the circle,
he was much better than he was in January.
Max Pacioretty: A+
It was a big month as well for Pacioretty with five goals and four assists, including 2 PP goals in that 8-6 Boston game. In addition, he was also credited with 18 hits, which means he’s using his sizable frame to great effect. I’m very impressed with this
youngster, who seems to be everything the Canadiens have wanted in a forward: big, strong, smart, and offensively skilled. Bravo.
Brian Gionta: A+
January’s offensive numbers for Gionta were lacking: just
three goals, no assists. February’s output: a team-high six goals, as well as
two assists. In the month’s first game against the Washington Capitals, Gionta
really lit it up: he scored two goals and notched another one in the shootout. A
better month, all in all, for the captain. He doesn’t quit, that’s for sure.
Mike Cammalleri: A+
Back from being sidelined with a shoulder injury, Cammalleri had two goals and two assists in just four games. It was immediately evident that he was ‘back’, he looked more focused, more patient, and sharper than before.
David Desharnais: A
What an remarkable player he’s turned out to be, eh? Desharnais battles along the boards for loose pucks. He makes beautiful passes to his linemates. He is phenomenal in the faceoff circle (thanks, Halpern). Three goals, five assists for Desharnais in February. Excellent work by the rookie, who is showing a lot of promise.
Andrei Kostitsyn: A-
Continuing a trend that started in January, Kostitsyn is more involved, makes occasional smart defensive plays, and is much better in the O-zone as well. He had two game-winning goals in February and three assists. He was also credited with 20 (good) hits. Much-improved, and a consistent effort for two months now!
Lars Eller: B+
Eller’s ice time is barely in double digits, and yet the kid plays steadily, calmly, and with energy and skill. He had 18 hits in February, and is great at both ends of the ice. I would love to see him in a bigger role on the team, but nothing – being benched, having limited ice time, or having different linemates – seems to shake him, and he’s been consistent, if not spectacular. Come to think of it, he reminds me of Tomas Plekanec – they seem to share the same work ethic. They’re not flashy, but they do their job in any given situation, along the boards, in front of the net etc.
Jeff Halpern: B
Halpern is now playing on a line with Plekanec and Cammalleri, which to me is a bit of a stretch for a player like him. However, he has not made any egregious errors, so that’s something that seems to be working for him. His success in the faceoff circle continues unchecked – he is, in fact, giving pointers to David Desharnais in that area.
Travis Moen: B-
Moen led the team with 21 hits in February, and continues to play his role. I don’t agree with him being put together with
Plekanec and Cammalleri, but on the Eller-Kostitsyn line the experiment works. He doesn’t contribute offensively, but he opens up ice space for his linemates and goes to the dirty areas to get them the puck. Good work.
Mathieu Darche: C
Darche apparently played 7 games in February, but I‘m having a hard time remembering his presence in any of them. That might be due to his injury, which continues to keep him out of the lineup.
Benoit Pouliot: C-
After a January flash of passion and energy, the enigmatic Pouliot is once again invisible. He’s not playing badly, and he’s certainly not hurting the team, but with his skill set, he should be on the scoresheet a lot more than he was in February (3 goals, 1 assist). Pouliot also racked up some hefty penalty minutes, a team-high 31 PIM. He’s got to be more disciplined.
Tom Pyatt: C
While playing in only 9 games in February, Pyatt’s stats are negligible – no offence, nothing that stands out. But his biggest contribution, his play on the PK, is huge. It seems like nights when he’s not in the lineup, the PK suffers. When he is, they do well. If only he would find the back of the net a little more often… His courage is impeccable though: in that now-infamous Boston game, Pyatt got his face shredded by Gregory Campbell’s loose elbow pad in a ‘fight’.
Scott Gomez: D
A team-high (or low, as it were) -10. One goal, three assists. Nope, he hasn’t emerged from his season-long slump yet. What really bothers me is the way he’s hurting the team by taking stupid penalties at the most inopportune times and the way he seems to drag down whoever is unfortunate enough to be on his line. The fact that Andrei Kostitsyn has had an offensive resurgence once he was off Gomez’s line is enough to signal a significant problem. And yet, despite all this, he continues to play almost 20 minutes every single game. Astounding.