After a roller coaster-like season that seemed to go down more than up, the final report cards are in and the Habs players grades are being posted on the wall for all to see. Today’s article will focus on the goalies and defencemen.
Carey Price: Incomplete
The team’s MVP from last season was off to a very strong start again this season, when he underwent an unknown lower body injury announced after a game in Edmonton. He allowed 4 goals in that game and when added to his previous two games, his total goals against climbed to 12. That uncharacteristic poor play indicates his injury may have started to impact his play earlier than the team indicated. After a 4 week absence Price returned to play well for 3 games, then was removed from the lineup. We would later learn this injury was a MCL sprain, something which took him 3 months to recover from two years ago. Without Carey’s presence the rest of the team’s confidence appeared to crumble, proving how valuable he is to the Canadiens in or out of the lineup.
Stats: 12 Games, 10 wins, 2 losses, 698 Mins, 2 shutouts, 24 GA, 365 SHA, 2.06 GAA, .934 SV%
Mike Condon: C+
Condon was a pleasant surprise in training camp, outperforming incumbent backup Dustin Tokarski to steal the backup job. He performed well in his first few starts while in the backup role, and even continued that level of play when Carey Price was out of the lineup for his first injury. It was after Price’s second injury when Condon was annointed the #1 role that he began to struggle. Sometimes he played well, such as the Winter Classic game when he was excellent. Sometimes he was average but other times he was below average, suffering when the rest of the team slumped. There were few games during the season when one could say Condon stole the win for the Canadiens. Perhaps it was unfair to expect Condon to replace Price, a task noone could realistically could perform. Next season he will see challenges from prospects like Zachary Fucale and Charles Lindgren, but will likely remain as the #2 netminder.
Stats: 55 Games, 21 wins, 25 losses, 6 OT, 3123 mins, 1 shutout, 141 GA, 1458 SHA, 2.71 GAA, .903 SV%
Ben Scrivens: D+
When the Canadiens management realized that Carey Price was not coming back any time soon, they managed to pull the trigger on a trade to obtain Scrivens, a veteran who was struggling on the Edmonton Oilers farm team. Montreal’s front office must have gambled that at the least Scrivens would provide a veteran backup for Mike Condon, and at best he would push Condon to play better or even steal the #1 role temporarily while Price was on the injury list. Ben struggled in his first four games for the Canadiens, then strung together three very good consecutive games in early February where he allowed only 4 goals. Unfortunately the next game he collapsed by allowing 3 goals on 8 shots on goal, and he never recovered. His inconsistency lead Montreal to sign free agent college goaltender Charlie Lindgren, who was promised an NHL start with Montreal. This lead the Canadiens to put Scrivens on waivers and when unclaimed he was sent to the AHL.
Stats: 15 Games, 5 wins, 8 losses, 822 mins, 42 GA, 447 SHA, 3.07 GAA, .906 SV%
PK Subban: A
Subban struggled at times this season, along with the rest of his team. At one point he was goaless between October 27 and January 6, which appears to lead him to put more pressure on himself. Despite this, he still managed to lead the team’s defencemen in scoring and average ice time even though he missed the last 14 games with a neck injury. His points per game average was slightly agove last season’s, when he scored a career high 60 points. When Subban was given a shutdown assignment to neutralize an opponent’s top scorer, he was successful more times than not. Unfortunately, during the team’s struggles, Subban was occassionally the target of Montreal’s coaches, either for trying to do too much or for acting too undisciplined. Subban is easily the most popular player in Montreal among fans, even if the coaches do not always feel the same. He has a no-trade clause in his contract which will begin on July 1st, so until that day comes up his popularity with Montreal management will be tested and speculated among fans and media.
Stats: 68 Games, 6 goals, 45 assists, 51 points, +4, 75 Pim, 2 PPG, 26:21 TOI, 176 shots
Andrei Markov: B+
Montreal’s eldest statesman, Markov played relatively well most of this season. He did struggle when the team went into their midseason slump, and sometimes look tired. Most of the season he played in the first pairing with PK Subban, but when he struggled he was relgated to the second or third pairing. He’s still a very efficient passer and has good anticipation skills on offence and defence. When Subban was injured, Markov stepped up with an increased role and increased ice time, and faired well. Markov also showed some good chemistry last in the season with fellow Russian defenceman Alexei Emelin.
Stats: 82 Games, 5 goals, 39 assists, 44 points, -6, 38 Pim, 4 PPG, 23:50 TOI, 117 shots
Jeff Petry: B
When Petry arrived during last season’s trade deadline period, he fit in well immediately with the Canadiens’ blueline. This season was no different. He began the season playing a consistent style for about the first half of the season, adapting to a role in the second pairing most of the time, with occasional promotions to the first pairing with PK Subban. Unfortunately a sports hernia started to hinder his play around the middle of the season, and it eventually forced him to be pulled from the lineup to treat it with surgery. The decision was obviously the correct one for both short term and long term reasons. Petry has good offensive skills in all key areas, skating, passing shooting the puck. His defensive skills are also good, relying on solid decision making to make the right decision most times.
Stats: 51 Games, 5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points, -6, 16 Pim, 1 PPG, 2 GWG, 21:21 TOI, 98 shots
Nathan Beaulieu: B-
Beaulieu still appears to be learning on the job but improving overall. His defensive game has stepped up this season, but perhaps at the expense of his offence. Nathan is a very good skating defenceman and a good passer, but his shooting skills are limited. While at the point on a power play or a 5-on-5 situation, his first option is to pass, or to use a wrist shot. Very rarely does he use a slapshot or snapshot, traits that most every defenceman at the NHL level uses often. He’s willing to drop the gloves to defend a teammate, which is a trait lacking among most Habs players. When paired with PK Subban at times this season, Beaulieu elevated his game. He also had similar success when paired with Jeff Petry and Mark Barberio, but struggled greatly when paired with Tom Gilbert, who he played most often with this season. With his talent level, there’s more expected of him offensively for upcoming seasons. The role of the #2 defenceman on this team is within his reach, and perhaps something he will attain permanently next season.
Stats: 64 Games, 2 goals, 17 assists, 19 points, -6, 55 PIM, 1 PPG, 17:27 TOI, 74 shots
Alexei Emelin: C+
Emelin started the season pretty strong, then faltered when the rest of the team stumbled. He also lost 5 consecutive games during the second quarter with a lower body injury. When he returned he was subsequently scratched for a pair of games once in late November, then again in late December. His play was inconsistent; when he is on his game he is a very efficient body checker who plays a simple game with the puck.
Stats: 72 Games, 0 goals, 12 assists, 12 points, -7, 71 PIM, 20:29 TOI, 71 shots
Tom Gilbert: C-
When Gilbert was signed to a contract 2 years ago, the idea was that he would replace Josh Gorges at a cheaper salary than Gorges $3.9M per season. Gilbert at times has been quietly effective and relatively invisible. As a 3rd pairing defenceman he didn’t make too many obvious mistakes that often, but also did not make too many good plays either. He seemed to be another pet veteran that the coach preferred to put into the lineup regularly to chew up minutes, stalling the progress of younger defenceman with more upside. With Gilbert’s injury in late December, those younger player got a chance to play more regularly starting to fufill some of their potential. Gilbert returned in early February and played 9 games, before having to shut it down for the season, succumbing to knee surgery to correct his injury. A prognosis of a 6 month minimum recovery sealed the fate of Gilbert’s return to Montreal this fall, and unfortunately kept management from moving him at the trade deadline.
Stats: 45 Games, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, +3, 12 PIM, 16:51 TOI, 36 shots
Greg Pateryn: B-
It took time and patience for Pateryn to get into the Habs lineup this season. The great start to Montreal’s season had relegated Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi to the pressbox. After about a month on activity, Pateryn got a chance to play, and even then he was in and out of the lineup until the final 27 games of the season. Pateryn provided some stability and toughness for the Habs blueline. He can play a physical game, but doesn’t do so recklessly or to excess. On the offensive side, his skating and quickness are about average, but his positional play is sound so he is rarely out of place or beat by faster forwards. He also has a hard underrated slapshot which he should use more often.
Stats: 38, Games, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points, -8, 49 PIM, 16:44 TOI, 32 shots
Mark Barberio: B-
Barberio struggled during training camp and was sent down to the AHL. He soon assumed a leadership role on the blueline and excelled offensively and defensively for the farm team. He earned a call up in late December, and stayed in the big league. During his first couple of weeks, he was prone to showing his offensive skills as he has excellent puck carrying abilities. Sometimes these decisions lead to putting himself out of position defensively. With some attention to his own zone he started to balance his decision making better, to become more consistent. Unfortunately he missed the last 11 games of the season due to a concussions. This injury aside, his chances of a full time job with Montreal next season are strong, although competition for the #6 spot will be tight with Greg Pateryn.
Stats: 30 GP, 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points, +0, 6 PM, TOI 14:59, 32 shots