The roller-coaster of emotions continues as November did not treat the Montreal Canadiens too kindly. They ended the month with a 6-6-2 record but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. There were games when the team showed up so convincingly and gave us shutout results twice (against Carolina and the Rangers) and then there were nights when the players seemed profoundly disinterested, when few, if any of them, actually showed up to play. This up-and-down on the ice wasn’t the only unnerving aspect of November. The talk surrounding the Habs’ controversial head coach Jacques Martin and the maybe-return of veteran defenceman Andrei Markov were looming shadows over the team.
Read on for the second instalment of the player grades.
Carey Price A
Price had a pretty even month, just a couple of games where he seemed a bit off. For the most part he was the steady rock of the team, keeping them in the game, making key saves. He had those above-mentioned two shutouts as well. Price’s shootout skills were not there in the beginning of the season but he seems to have improved vastly in that area.
Peter Budaj C
Budaj played three games in November, winning one in overtime and losing the other two. He didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in his teammates, who did not play with conviction in front of him. He looked shaky and weak on almost all of the goals he let in.
Andrei Markov was very close to returning when he experienced a setback and as we learned December 3rd, he will be operated on for the third time, to clear some debris in the knee. The timeline is now a further four-to-six weeks for Markov. This uncertainty surrounding his recovery has made it supremely difficult for the team to establish any sort of stability on the defence corps. Basically the Habs are icing a bunch of rookies, and Hal Gill and Josh Gorges as the two sole veterans. Jaroslav Spacek and Chris Campoli are close to returning.
Josh Gorges A
Very happy to see Gorges continue to use his new-found offensive skills. Four points for November, including a game-winning goal against Phoenix, a beauty of a shot that had fans asking if he should perhaps be getting some PP time. Unfortunately, I don’t think Gorges on the point is going to cure the PP’s ills… every single defenceman playing the point right now seems to have tremendous difficulty aiming their shot at the net. Gorges has also been tremendously useful on the PK; given the Habs’ tendency to parade to the box. Lastly, the amazing new knee has taken Gorges’ defensive skills to the next level: in November alone he had an astounding 38 blocked shots.
Alexei Emelin A-
A stunning team-high 46 hits has really showcased how he is the only Habs’ defenceman who makes the opposing forwards look up and hesitate in the corners. He is improving steadily game by game as he adapts to the North American rinks and style of play. As of now, we can only imagine how good he would look paired with Markov.
Jaroslav Spacek A-
Spacek played only six quiet games in November before being sidelined with another injury. However in those six games, he really solidified the defence and seemed to energize the team greatly.
Raphael Diaz B
Diaz has been forced into playing top-four minutes, and he hasn’t made any awful mistakes in my book. He had three assists and was a decent -3, which is a lot better than Weber. The experience he’s getting playing these huge minutes is invaluable as well.
Hal Gill B
Gill only played 9 games in November, but managed to block 33 shots. He’s been at fault for a couple of giveaways that led to goals against but his value as a penalty killer and veteran defenceman is pretty high on the Habs’ depleted corps right now.
P.K. Subban B
Subban had a solid offensive month after contributing little in October. Seven points and a +3 for the sophomore, who looked a lot less risky than he did at the beginning of the season. He still makes some bad decisions, and his predictability on the PP is becoming annoying, but a solid month from someone who would not have this much pressure on him if the Habs’ D would be healthy.
Frederic St. Denis B
St. Denis has done an admirable job filling in on the defence. He has moved the puck quickly up ice and was even in the plus/minus category.
Yannick Weber C
Weber is struggling badly right now. In November he was a team-worst -8, which is just awful. With Diaz and Emelin shining right now, Weber’s troubles are very evident. His shot at the PP is off right now too, and that being his main advantage, he’s kind of an unnecessary weight on the team right now. He’d be better off in Hamilton, honing his defensive skills.
Max Pacioretty A+
Six goals and four assists for Pacioretty and only a -1. He had 45 shots on net, only second to Erik Cole (47), speaking of whom, played really well together with Pacioretty and Desharnais. The high amount of shots indicate a hunger to score and the return to form before his violent injury last season. Pacioretty was suspended a surprising three games for a hit on Kris Letang, which was no worse than other unpunished hits (i.e. Malone, Joslin, Lucic etc).
Andrei Kostitsyn A+
Kostitsyn only played four games but managed to put up three points including a game-winning goal. He played very well considering he was coming back from a lengthy absence.
Erik Cole A+
Cole had an excellent offensive month in November, putting up an even 5 goals and 5 assists. Also notable is his plus 3 rating. Cole’s size and willingness to throw his body around have emphasized his importance to the team. He’s not flashy, but does his job well, leading the team with 47 shots on net. Like Cammalleri, he only took one penalty which is an excellent sign. Another sign of a good player is that he makes his linemates better, and Cole has clicked well with both Desharnais and Pacioretty as well as Plekanec and Cammalleri.
Travis Moen A
Well what can we say about Moen, scoring four more beautiful goals with his newfound skills…. His defensive play was better than usual as well. It’s like everything I wrote about him last season is reversed. Impressive turnaround for a player of Moen’s calibre.
David Desharnais A
Desharnais continues to impress offensively with another 6 six points in November. He did struggle defensively, leading to a few goals against, and his faceoff percentage is inconsistent. He did center an excellent line with Pacioretty and Cole as his wingers, so credit to him for that.
Tomas Plekanec A-
Team-high eleven points for Pleks, with 5 of those points coming on the power play. With Pacioretty’s suspension, Plekanec has overtaken him as team leader in points. He continues to struggle in the circle, but the huge amount of minutes he plays and his defensive tasks balance it out. He had some bad games, but he wasn’t the only one.
Mike Cammalleri A-
Cammalleri seems to be playing with an injury, and indeed missed two games. He is not his usual self, playing badly defensively. I thought he was struggling offensively as well but when you see him putting up 6 points in a tough month, he’s still contributing. His shot seems off, muffing a lot of chances that he buried last year. I hope he is cured of whatever ails him and gets back to top form quickly.
Lars Eller B
Eller was switched to the wing for a while in November, and did not play well at that position. He only picked up four points, and for a player with such talent and bright promise he’s not delivering. The chances are there, but Eller has issues cashing them in. Something needs to give here, he has to improve in that area. His faceoff numbers could use improvement too.
Brian Gionta B-
A strong month offensively for the captain, with 5 goals and three assists. However, defensively he is a dreadful minus 7 for November. That, plus the way he is sometimes completely invisible on the ice, worries me. However, he seems to be picking it up a bit and coming out of his fog.
Petteri Nokelainen B-
Since his prowess in faceoffs appears to have declined, it makes his lack of production so much more noticeable. He had one nice goal against Philadelphia and that was it. While fans were excited when he joined the team, I’ve become disillusioned with his less-than-impressive play.
Scott Gomez C
Gomez had three assists in 7 games… two more than last month! Otherwise, he still sucks, hasn‘t scored in almost 50 games. Two of those assists came in one game, so the other six games were not good.
Mathieu Darche C-
As I noted last month, Darche’s usefulness on the team has really dropped. Not a single point in 14 games in November. A minus 2 rating. I honestly can’t recall any positive moments on the ice. I don’t remember him playing at all, meaning he’s kind of invisible, which no, is not a bad thing always. And the good news? Little to no ice time on the PP.
Aaron Palushaj N/A
Palushaj played ten games and while he was decent in some of them, he was clearly not prepared and needs more time developing in Hamilton.