The Montreal Canadiens are now past the quarter mark of the 2016-17 season, and its time for progress report cards on the players. This article will focus on the goalies and defencemen. An upcoming article will review the Habs forwards.
Carey Price – Grade: A+
What’s left to say about Carey Price. He’s been superlative to start the season. Despite missing the first week of games due to a flu-like issue, he’s helped dispel any concerns fans had about last season’s injury. Price did play very well at the World Cup tournament before the season started, which may have helped get him into game ready shape after last season’s long layoff due to injury. In games where Montreal has been out shot, Price has been the difference maker. He’s already broken one NHL record by winning his first 10 straight games. There’s every indication that he should challenge for the Vezina award again, and perhaps even the Hart trophy.
1st Quarter Stats: Games 14, Wins 12, Losses 1, OT Losses 1, 2 Shutout, GAA 1.71, Save Pct .945
Al Montoya – Grade: B
Montoya has settled into the backup role very well, helping to solidify a position that the Habs have not a steady player in a few seasons. With one exception, the blowout loss in Columbus, he has given the Habs a chance to win most games he’s started. Just as important, Montoya has given Price a rest when necessary, and been ready for the starting role when Price was ill at the start of the season.
1st Quarter Stats: Games 7, Wins 3, Losses 3, OT Losses 1, 1 Shutout, GAA 3.13, Save Pct .903
Shea Weber – Grade A+
Weber has arrived as advertised, so much as the Canadiens coaching and management teams lauded him at the time of The Trade. He’s taken over the role of the team’s #1 defenceman, and at this moment is tied for second in the league lead in scoring with Andrei Markov. Shea has fit into the locker room well, providing some much needed leadership while helping to stabilize the defence. He leads the team in ice time every game and hasn’t wore down under the load. His cannon of a shot is a devastating weapon, and has helped improve the team on the power play while he leads all Habs with seven man advantage markers, a total that leads the league as well. The understated part of his game is that he’s helped improve the play of his defensive partner, a role that has been shared between Nathan Beaulieu, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin.
1st Quarter Stats: Games 21, Goals 8, Assists 9, +17, PIM 10, PPG 7, GWG 3, TOI 25:42, Shots 55
Andrei Markov – Grade A
The team’s most veteran player is off to a great start to this season, his 16th with Montreal. He’s currently leading the team in assists, and has helped form a deadly duo on the power play along with Shea Weber. He’s also fared well when paired with Jeff Petry on the team’s second pairing. Limiting Markov’s ice time to what’s typical for a 2nd pairing defenceman will be important to keep him rested enough so he remains effective for the end of the season and more importantly the postseason.
1st Quarter Stats: Games 21, Goals 2, Assists 15, +5, PIM 6, TOI 21:57, Shots 31
Jeff Petry – Grade B+
When Petry is on his game, he’s usually not very noticeable. He’s a good skater that handles the puck well, but on this team he’s not typically asked to jump up into the play very much. He appears to be coached that way to minimize the risk and for the most part he plays that way. Early this season, he’s surprised a few fans with some offensive gems. After missing the team’s first game of the season with a minor lower body injury, his return to the lineup saw him score two goals in the team’s second game, and then another two assists in the following game. In only one other game, November 18th against Carolina, has he produced another multi-point game (one goal and one assist). With the offensive burden focused more on Markov and Weber, Petry’s role on the club doesn’t have to concentrate so much on scoring. That’s a benefit to him and the team.
1st Quarter Stats: Games 20, Goals 3, Assists 6, +5, PIM 10, PPG 1, TOI 21:51, Shots 37
Alexei Emelin – Grade B+
Alexei’s off to an excellent start to this season. After bouncing around between the 1st, 2nd and 3rd pairings, lately he seems to have settled in well with Weber on the first unit for regular strength and penalty killing situations. His decision making with the puck and without it have improved, He still surprises with the occasional hard check to crush an opponent as well.
1st Quarter Stats: Games 21, Goals 1, Assists 3, +6, PIM 25, TOI 21:12, Shots 20
Nathan Beaulieu – Grade B-
At the start of the season, fans and pundits were hoping Beaulieu would be paired with Weber to help have a breakout season. For some reason the two players did not click. Nate has had some consistency issues at times, which have dropped him to the last defensive pairing for most of Montreal’s games.
1st Quarter Stats: Games 20, Goals 1, Assists 5, +6, PIM 13, GWG 1, TOI 17:09, Shots 23
Greg Pateryn – Grade C+
Pateryn has had a similar start to Nathan Beaulieu. A lack of consistency in his play have kept him in the doghouse, namely being a healthy scratch for seven of the first twenty one games. Pateryn admitted to the Montreal media recently that it seems whenever he makes a mistake in a game, he’s then benched. He’s likely frustrated and perhaps has his confidence shaken. He is at the bottom of the plus/minus stats on the team, which seems to be what the focus of the coaches for him.
1st Quarter Stats: Games 14, Goals 1, Assists 2, -1, TOI 14:14, Shots 15
N/A: Mark Barberio, Joel Hanley