As proud as we are how far the Montreal Canadiens went in the postseason, overcoming massive injuries with a lineup that looked completely different in October, it was heartbreaking to see them eliminated at the hands of the Boston Bruins. It is however impressive the way they won the first two games of the series in Boston territory, forced a Game 7 and came within a whisker from advancing to the next round.
There were four regular-season games in April – of which the Canadiens won three and collected a loser point in OT – and then the seven-game series against the Bruins. There were players who distinguished themselves in the postseason, and there were those who were mediocre.
The way the Habs played those last four regular games was remarkable. There was no squeaking into the postseason this year, the players put forth a solid team effort that gave fans all kinds of relief. Throughout the month of April the Canadiens displayed a team mentality with every player subscribing to the same system and everyone contributing. In the end, they were just too decimated by injuries to survive.
In my estimation, with a healthy Markov and Gorges, we would have finished in the top three, with a shot at first place in the conference. The fact that we finished 6th and stretched the Boston series to seven games, is all credit to the coaching staff and character of this team, as well as some timely deals by management.
Read on for the final instalment of my individual player rankings.
Carey Price A
As was the case during the regular season Price gave his team a chance to win every night by keeping the score close and making spectacular saves when necessary. However, there were some goals I’m sure Price would love to have back. It seemed like as good – nay, as brilliant – as he was, it was just enough to squeak into overtime or keep it to within a goal – but rarely enough for a decisive win. But Price has proved himself and I’m looking forward to see what he does next year.
Alex Auld B
Auld started one game in April, against Ottawa, and helped the team earn a point in OT. He was good enough, just like he’s been all year.
Because Markov and Gorges were not available this year, that meant that all defencemen had to play more minutes and outside of their comfort zone. This led to general fatigue and more errors being committed.
Hal Gill A
Gill did wonders for P.K. Subban, helping the rookie really mature in his role. For that alone, he gets an A as it was definitely not an easy task to reign in the adventurous P.K.
Roman Hamrlik A
Hamrlik had four assists in April and was second on the team with 25 blocked shots,
impressive for this 37-year-old defenceman. He played every single game and averaged 22 minutes of ice time. While age is really starting to show on him, he was heroic in the postseason.
James Wisniewski A
Wisniewski had four assists in April and chipped in with everything: 20 blocked shots, fourteen hits, 13 SOG. He proved to be a very versatile and valuable player, his offensive presence on the PP really made a difference. He was like a much-improved version of Marc-Andre Bergeron, and I liked it.
Paul Mara A
Mara played five games in April and was unremarkable but solid. I thought the Habs could have benefited from his presence during the Boston series a little more but obviously the coaching staff disagreed.
Yannick Weber A
Weber was dressed for five games in April and had two goals and an assist. Both goals – and indeed every NHL goal Weber has scored – has been against Boston goalie Tim Thomas. In Game 7, with the Habs down by two goals in the first, Weber converted a cross-ice pass from Cammalleri to put the Habs on the board. A very timely goal.
P.K. Subban B
Subban had four goals and two assists in April and was a force on the blueline. However, in the playoffs he had two very shaky games (notably Games 4 & 7) and was not his usual self. To his credit, he didn’t take quite as many penalties as he did during the regular season.
Brent Sopel B
Sopel led the team with 26 blocked shots, and was quite decent, scoring one big goal.
Jaroslav Spacek C
Spacek returned from injury to play nine games in April, and had nothing to show for it.
Tomas Plekanec A
In April, Plekanec really returned to pre-injury form after a disappointing March. He scored three goals and four assists and was his usual steady self. Two of the goals were shorthanded, one scored in Game 7 against Boston. There were so many opportunities for
him to score and it just wasn’t going in for him. He gets a pass due to his responsibilities of shutting down Boston’s top line, but wouldn’t we love to see
Plekanec have some more offensive success in the postseason?
David Desharnais A
This rookie really distinguished himself in the postseason, at least until he was sandwiched by two Bruins and sustained a knee injury. Desharnais was buzzing around in the Boston zone, frustrating them immensely, including one really amusing sequence where he tangled with Zdeno Chara behind the Boston net . I thoroughly enjoyed watching him excel and look so comfortable out there under such pressure.
Ryan White A
He had 38 hits while playing an average of 8 minutes a game. I wish he would have played more – every time he was on the ice, I noticed it. He had an impact, and played his role perfectly in the series with Boston. Very promising.
Brian Gionta A
Gionta, like a true captain, led by example: Team-high 6 goals and four assists in April. He also led the team with 47 shots. Gionta never stopped trying and his attitude and effort are commendable. Three of his goals were game-winners.
Andrei Kostitsyn C
Two goals, three assists – and the dubious honour of most PIM. He did have a decent 27 hits, but overall was a disappointment in the postseason. The Habs could really have used some scoring from this winger, who was mostly invisible.
Travis Moen C
I expected Moen to have more of an impact in a rough-and-tumble series with the hated Bruins. Instead, he was also mostly invisible.
Mike Cammalleri A+
After a worrying, disappointing two months coming back from injury, he put all my fretting to rest in the postseason and led the league in points. Five goals, nine assists for a stunning 14 points in 11 games. He actually averaged more points-per-game than last year. He really elevates his game in the playoffs, and was the best offensive threat on the ice for the Canadiens.
Mathieu Darche A
Three goals and three assists from Darche this past month, who continued to play his style perfectly: Hard work in front of the net, trying to score those garbage goals.
Lars Eller A
The most amazing stat for Eller? Plus 2. The way he played in the postseason, elevating his game, maintaining puck possession and cycling in the offensive zone, was impressive. Finishing on a strong note like that is a good harbinger for next season.
Tom Pyatt B
Pyatt was the only other forward besides Lars Eller to finish plus 2 on the month. His level of play improved in the postseason, just like last year. His one-dimensional play does not, in my estimation, earn him a regular lineup spot. It’s great how good he is on the PK but his inability to score outweighs his usefulness.
Jeff Halpern B
Halpern was solid on the faceoffs and steady in his role.
Scott Gomez D
Unfortunately, Gomez did not pick it up in the postseason and while he looked good in the first game, he quickly disappeared. He had 6 assists, which is not terrible for your average forward, but for your top centre and highest-paid player, it just really hurts. A very disappointing season for Gomez, and for Habs fans who know they will still have to see him for another 3 years.
Benoit Pouliot D
Pouliot played a handful of minutes in the playoffs and had zero impact. After taking two stupid penalties he was promptly dispatched to the press box and hasn’t been heard of since.