With the third quarter of the season having come and gone, here is our quarterly grade report focusing on Montreal’s goalies and defencemen. To qualify a player must have played in at least 5 games out of the 20 game span.
Antti Niemi — Grade: B
There was not much fanfare when Montreal decided to acquire Niemi on waivers, given his dismal record with two NHL teams this season. Given goalie coach Stephane Waite was familiar with Niemi during their time together in Chicago, Montreal decided to gamble on the veteran netminder. I suspect some technical hitch was noticed, and the decision made that it was correctable. So far the returns have been impressive, as Niemi has given the Habs some solid starts, and will help while Price is out.
Third Quarter Stats: 5 GP, 3 W, 1 L, 1 OTL, 2.50 GAA, .925 SV%
Carey Price — Grade: D
Carey floundered in the third quarter of the season, putting up numbers that were nearly as bad as the first quarter. It’s hard to understand why he slumped so badly, particularly after rebounding in the second quarter. Due to a puck striking the side of his mask, he has been suffering concussion-like symptoms with no timetable for his return.
Third Quarter Stats: 15 GP, 3 W, 8 L, 4 OTL, 3.08 GAA, .389 SV%
Jeff Petry — Grade: B
With Shea Weber out of the lineup for the rest of the year, Petry has been formally deemed the team’s number one blueliner. He has stepped up to the task quite well, particularly in this quarter. His offensive numbers have more than doubled and his defensive numbers are much improved. Considering he’s usually facing the toughest opposition, Petry has really shown to be a true warrior despite the team’s low position in the standings.
Third Quarter Stats: 20 GP, 6 G, 10 A, -3, 6 PIM, 43 Hits, 51 Bks, 3 PPG, 57 SOG
Karl Alzner — Grade: B-
The veteran Alzner had a bounce-back quarter showing improvement over the first half of the season. He needs to continue this trend and keep it consistent in order to help justify his significant contract last offseason. For this quarter I believe he’s fared better than the first half of the year because he has played on the third pairing more often which has helped insulate him.
Third Quarter Stats: 20 GP, 1 G, 4 A, +5, 11 PIM, 28 Hits, 38 Bks, 27 SOG
Victor Mete — Grade: B-
Victor returned to the Habs after a sabbatical at the World Junior Championship where he fared well for Team Canada. After coming back to the NHL, he slipped back into the lineup but without his usual partner in Weber. Mete has continued to use his speed and hockey sense to handle most defensive and offensive situations quite well. He has been bounced around all three pairings this season and has not looked out of place. It’s unfortunate that his hand injury has basically ended his season.
Third Quarter Stats: 19 GP, 0 G, 3 A, -1, 2 PIM, 0 Hits, 30 Bks, 19 SOG
Jakub Jerabek — Grade C-
Like most of his teammates, Jerabek struggled during the third quarter of this season. In defensive situations, he doesn’t always make the best reads of the on-ice situation. However, I thought overall it was not unexpected for a rookie, albeit a 26 year old one. Considering he’s only in his first pro season and adjusting to the North American style, it was difficult to understand why Montreal would trade Jerabek, a capable puck-moving defenceman. Especially someone who could eventually become a 2nd pairing blueliner.
Third Quarter Stats: 10 GP, 1 G, 3 A, -4, 4 PIM, 14 Hits, 17 Bks, 11 SOG
David Schlemko — Grade C-
A training camp hand injury kept Schlemko out of the lineup until the end of November. When he finally was cleared to play, he looks like he’s struggled to catch up to the pace of play. I believe Montreal fans hoped he would provide a stabilizing presence as a veteran defenceman, but he has not yet fit into the Habs’ style so far. What Schlemko appears to be is another third-pairing defenceman, something Montreal has in too much abundance.
Third Quarter Stats: 17 GP, 1 G, 1 A, -5, 6 PIM, 15 Hits, 36 Bks, 21 SOG
Jordie Benn — Grade: D
Jordie has struggled more this quarter than most other Habs’ defencemen. With other blueliners out of the lineup, Benn has been forced into more responsibilities. Unfortunately, he has not adapted well to this change.
Third Quarter Stats: 19 GP, 2 A, -3, 8 PIM, 31 Hits, 44 Bks, 27 SOG
Joe Morrow — Grade: D
Morrow continued to slump in the third quarter. Joe never really fit in well with Montreal and its system. The defensive side of the game seems to elude him at the most inopportune time. He was traded away at the deadline, and his ice time will be replaced by newcomer Mike Reilly.
Third Quarter Stats: 13 GP, 2 G, 2 A, -7, 4 PIM, 25 Hits, 21 Bks, 19 SO