The quarter mark point of the season has recently passed, and the Habs report cards have now arrived; delayed in the mail thanks to Canada Post. Here is the first of two articles with this one focusing on Montreal’s goalies and defencemen.
Charlie Lindgren – Grade: B
Another unusual “practice injury” to Al Montoya (later reported as a concussion) opened the door for Lindgren to get a chance to start a few games. Charlie did not disappoint, giving the team a chance to win. He has a battling style, more reactionary than technical, reminding me of a young Jaroslav Halak during his last season with Montreal. Since he’s a southpaw goalie, catching pucks with his right hand, this seems to be a slight advantage against shooters who rarely face these goalies.
Stats: 7 GP, 3 W, 3 L, 1 OTL, 2.49 GAA, 0.923 SV%, 1 Shutout
Al Montoya – Grade: C
Likeable Al, he managed only a few starts before suffering a concussion. His goals against for the games he started is high, and his save percentage is low. At least he won double the number of games (2) than he has lost (1), which no other Habs goalie can claim.
Stats: 4 GP, 2 W, 1 L, 3.78 GAA, 0.863 SV%
Carey Price – Grade: D
The team’s franchise player got off to a terrible start to the season for the first month. Unfortunately, he did not get a chance to bounce back, officially reporting an injury suffered during the November 2nd warmup. He played through it for one of his worst performances this season. Price seemed to give up unusually easy goals at the worst times, killing momentum and team spirit as well. Personally, I believe that Price suffered the injury earlier than reported, perhaps back in the preseason, since he seemed to show an issue sliding back and forth within his crease.
Stats: 11 GP, 3 W, 7 L, 1 OTL, 3.77 GAA, 0.877 SV%
Shea Weber – Grade: B
Weber remains a solid #1 defenceman for the Habs. Although he’s not off the torrent start he had to begin last season, he’s still the team’s leader in scoring and ice time from the blueline, and as an assistant captain, he is a strong leader in the locker room and on the bench. His play has been fairly steady, and he’s rarely at fault when his team is scored upon while he’s on the ice.
Stats: 20 GP, 4 G, 9 A, -7, 14 PIMS, 53 Hits, 47 Bks, 2 PPG, 2 PPA, 60 SOG
Victor Mete – Grade: B
One of two new rookies to start the season with the Habs, Victor has fit in surprisingly well for a 19-year-old player. Mete earned top pairing time with Weber after forming immediate chemistry with him in the preseason. Victor’s panic level is quite low as he makes the correct decision with the puck at the level of a steady veteran. He is a very quick skater and puck handler, knowing when to jump into the play and when not to, adding much-needed mobility to the blueline. Despite his smallish size, Mete is smart with his stick and gap control to help break up plays before they can start. When he has been paired with other Habs defencemen, his play has tailed off somewhat towards the end of the first quarter but more often than not it was due to his partners’ bad decisions.
Stats: 21 GP, 0 G, 3 A, -2, 2 PIMS,1 Hit, 24 Bks, 19 SOG
Jordie Benn – Grade: C
Mr. Versatility should be Jordie’s nickname. When he’s been paired with Weber, Benn has not looked out of place. Jordie has played the second highest amount of time with Weber so far this season, and he’s also managed a few more points per game than his usual career average. While Benn is generally seen as a third pairing defenceman, he has also fared well enough when put on the second pairing. Jordie is definitely willing to stick up for his teammates, which is a positive since most of the rest of the blueline played soft at times during the first quarter.
Stats: 20 GP, 1 G, 4 A, -1, 9 PIMS, 19 Hits, 39 Bks, 29 SOG
Joe Morrow – Grade: C
Like Brandon Davidson, Morrow has struggled at times to start this season. As such he’s been a frequent healthy scratch. When he has played, he can provide a good shot from the point, providing two opportune goals through the first quarter. I would like to see him shoot more often. When Joe plays a simple game, he usually makes the right play on defence and goes unnoticed. Sometimes his decision making is unusually bad, at a brain cramp level or when he tries to do too much. That’s likely an immaturity issue with regards to hockey sense, and probably the main reason he’s now with his 3rd NHL organization at the age of 24.
Stats: 11 GP, 2 G, 1 A, -3, 10 PIMS, 18 Hits, 7 Bks, 18 SOG
Brandon Davidson – Grade: C
Early in the season, Davidson struggled with inconsistent play during the pre-season. Coupled with the fine play of Mete, Davidson was a healthy scratch as often as he played. He’s gradually got into more games after the first 10 passed. When he plays a straightforward game, he’s generally reliable. He hasn’t shown as much offensively as he did last season, but I suspect he’s been coached not to try to contribute that way.
Stats: 11 GP, 0 G, 1 A, -2, 7 PIMS, 25 Hits, 15 Bks, 12 SOG
Jeff Petry – Grade: D-
For some odd reason, Petry has had many bad games this season, much more so than the good ones. I cannot tell if he has not yet adjusted to coach Julien’s new man coverage system, or if forwards that crisscross when entering the defensive zone seem to mess up his coverage. He has chipped in a few points in the second pairing role and has actually recorded more hits than he usually does. More is expected of him, to the point that I would prefer to see him and his usual partner Alzner given third pairing responsibilities until they can both find their game although Petry has come around the last couple of games.
Stats: 21 GP, 2 G, 3 A, -11, 10 PIMS, 60 Hits 28 Bks, 41 SOG
Karl Alzner – Grade: D-
Karl represents the “big” free agent signing for the Habs in the offseason. He was expected to provide a steady defensive presence on the second pairing. Some fans hoped he might even blossom as top pairing blueliner alongside Weber since Alzner is a left-handed shot. The early results have not met these expectations. So far, particularly when he’s been paired with Petry, he has been underwhelming in several defensive situations. What has been especially frustrating is that coach Claude Julien has paired Alzner and Petry together more often than any other pair of Habs defencemen, despite the obvious (to fans and media) lack of chemistry.
Stats: 21 GP, 0 G, 4 A, -6, 8 PIMS, 38 Hits, 35 Bks, 17 SOG