We’ve hit the ten game mark on the 2014-15 campaign and it’s safe to say that
in terms of their record, the Habs have exceeded expectations as they sit atop
the Eastern Conference with an 8-2 mark, tied with Anaheim for best in the
NHL. Several questions about this team have been answered while others
have come up in the early going. Here are ten thoughts through the first
ten games of the year.
– Tomas Plekanec still has some offence in him. After being used in a
larger and larger defensive role in prior seasons, Plekanec’s offensive
production has taken a hit over that time. Some, myself included, thought
this was a sign that moving forward, he’s going to be more of a 40 or so point
player than a higher end contributor. Now partnered with offensive minded
players, he’s showing that he’s still capable of putting up some points.
– Alex Galchenyuk looks primed to take that next step. A lot of people
were expecting him to be a breakout star but after an up-and-down sophomore
season, it was fair to wonder if too much was being expected too soon. I
think that caution can be put to rest as in quite a few games already, he has
been dominant with the puck. As he gets more and more confident, we should
see more and more flashes from Galchenyuk.
– Lars Eller and Rene Bourque aren’t going to rekindle their playoff sparks.
I understand the idea of giving the two of them time early on to see if they can
jell once again but it’s becoming pretty obvious that it’s not happening.
Both have had their moments so far – good and bad ones – but keeping them
together is likely going to continue to result in struggle and disappointment.
– Depth is a wonderful thing to have. Instead of the likes of Gabriel
Dumont and Michael Blunden being on speed dial whenever anyone got hurt, the
Habs have competent depth waiting in the wings. Michael Bournival, Travis
Moen, and Jiri Sekac, who all have spent considerable time in the press box, are
all players who can be thrown into the lineup at any time and not miss a beat.
– Tom Gilbert is going to be a polarizing player all season long. He’s
not the greatest in his own zone but on the flip side, when he’s on the ice, the
puck isn’t in the defensive zone as often as it is with other blueliners.
In specific situations, that can be bad but on a whole, less defensive zone time
is a good thing. However, many have a tendency to remember the specific
moments over the big picture which is likely to make Gilbert’s tenure with the
Habs somewhat of a tumultuous one.
– Does anyone want to earn the #6 job full-time? Both Nathan Beaulieu
and Jarred Tinordi have received ample time to make an impression and yet again,
neither one has done anything aside from leaving more questions. Each has
had some good moments but also some puzzling blunders as well. Both still
have lots of potential and it’s not time to panic by any stretch but if this
continues for much longer, I wouldn’t be shocked if Marc Bergevin starts kicking
the tires on adding another Mike Weaver type of veteran to the fold.
– Alexei Emelin is showing signs of improvement in his top pairing role.
He didn’t have the best of preseasons and his first few games were a bit iffy
but lately, he is showing that he not only can handle the increased workload
(over 20 minutes a night) but that he can be a positive contributor and not just
a minute-eater. For me, he’s the true wildcard for this blueline, not
– Dustin Tokarski is showing that he can handle a backup goalie’s workload.
When you’re used to being the starter who plays at least three out of every five
games (if not more), dropping down to a role that the Montreal second stringer
plays – once every couple of weeks at best – is quite an adjustment that not
everyone can handle. He has looked sharp in both of his starts though
which suggests he’s faring well with the transition.
– Some things just never change. Last year, the powerplay was erratic,
especially towards the end of the season. Despite that, the plan remained
to run it through the point. This season, it’s still erratic and it’s
still run through the point. Meanwhile, the penalty kill, which last year
was either really good or really bad on a game-to-game basis, is still either
really good or really bad. Early on it was really cold but it has improved
considerably the last few games. Nonetheless, a little more consistency
would be nice.
– This team seems really comfortable playing from behind – perhaps too
comfortable. Generally, teams can only go to the well so many times when
trying to make comebacks and eventually, it’s going to catch up with the Habs.
They need to find a way to get, play with, and keep earlier leads. That’s
a much easier road to success over a long season.