At long last, the 2015-2016 season is over for the Montreal Canadiens. Despite a tremendous beginning to the year, key injuries and bad luck ultimately doomed a team which many had considered to be legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup. Although it was easy to point out negatives as the team played out the schedule in March and April, our readers were equally up to the task in finding positives as well.
First Star: Alex Galchenyuk
It’s no surprise to find Alex Galchenyuk topping this list; he finished the 2015-16 campaign on an absolute tear, tallying at a point-per-game pace. For reasons unknown, Michel Therrien had seemed loathe to place “Chucky” on the first line with Max Pacioretty for the vast majority of the season. But with the playoffs out of reach, and with David Desharnais side-lined with injury, Galchenyuk was finally given the opportunity to center Montreal’s best wingers. Galchenyuk made the most of this opportunity, and unleashed his wicked shot on many occasions; the sight of a #27 blasting one-timers from the off-wing hearkened to the era of Alex Kovalev and revived a putrid powerplay, however marginally. With the 30-goal milestone reached, Galchenyuk might have finally turned the corner and become the 1st line center he was drafted for, especially if he continues to be played in such a role.
Stats: 19 GP, 13 G, 6 A, 19 P, +1 Rating, 3 Powerplay Points
Second Star: Max Pacioretty
There are a few that were largely unimpressed with Max Pacioretty’s first year as captain of the Montreal Canadiens, but there’s no question that he remains a very effective forward. His efficiency only increased in March and April when he and his new line-mate, Alex Galchenyuk, found chemistry with one another. Given Pacioretty’s propensity to score goals, one might have assumed that he would play the role of triggerman on the new-look first line; however, the opposite appeared true, and “Patch” was the owner of a few highlight reel assists over the past few months. Despite seemingly labouring at times, Pacioretty’s game remained as consistent as ever, and led the Canadiens in powerplay points, game-winning goals, and shots on goal.
Stats: 19 GP, 7 G, 12A, 19 P, +2 Rating, 3 Powerplay Points
Third Star: Andrei Markov
There is no question that P.K. Subban is Montreal’s number one defenceman, but when he went down with an injury, Andrei Markov seamlessly slid into that crucial role. Much has been made over the past few years about managing Markov’s minutes (and coach Therrien’s inability to limit them), and this was definitely a concern over the past few months; he exceeded 25 minutes in 10 of the last 12 games. In spite of all of this, it seemed like Markov had taken a trip in a time machine, as the player we saw on the ice appeared rejuvenated and efficient. His prowess with the man-advantage was evident, as he co-led the Canadiens in powerplay points.
Stats: 19 GP, 1 G, 9 A, 10 P, -3 Rating, 3 Powerplay Points
Honourable Mention: Mike Condon
Mike Condon will certainly not receive any Vezina Trophy consideration this year, but it can certainly be said that he made the best of a bad situation. As a rookie, it would have been daunting enough to play in Montreal and to play behind the reigning MVP, Carey Price. In retrospect, that probably seems like child’s play to Condon, as he ended up playing 55 games, which was more than he played at any other level. Despite the advanced workload, Condon battled hard every game, and was finally rewarded with his first shutout with a handful of games to go. Assuming Carey Price returns in a full capacity next year, it will be interesting to see how Condon fares within a legitimate NHL goalie tandem.
Stats: 5W-7L-1OTL, 3.07 GAA, .902 SV%, 1 SO