With time winding down on a tough season February saw a couple familiar faces in the three stars alongside a surprisingly successful waiver wire pick up.
First Star: Brendan Gallagher
The Habs’ best forward all season, Gallagher has now been voted as the first star of the month for the third time by HabsWorld readers. He has now tied his career high of 24 goals and has been one of the few consistent bright spots during a forgettable campaign. It appears that the hand injuries that have plagued him are now fully healed and we can look forward to many more Gallagher goals in the future.
It’s been well stated, but Gallagher’s tenacity and refusal to give up has been one of the best stories in a season lacking positivity. He remains the heart and soul of the Canadiens and is a potential captain in the future.
Stats: 13 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 10 PTS, -1 rating
Second Star: Jeff Petry
While Gallagher has been the best forward on the team this season, it is Jeff Petry that has emerged as the top defender on the club. He has continued his strong play in the absence of Shea Weber and has turned a bit of a rough start to the year into a career season with 10 goals and 32 points thus far.
Petry’s consistent play goes a long way in solidifying the team’s defensive depth on the right side. The emergence of youngster Noah Juulsen, combined with a return to health for Shea Weber, has the Habs looking good at that position moving forward.
Stats: 13 GP, 5 G, 4 A, 9 PTS, 0 rating
Third Star: Antti Niemi
After a horrendous start to the season with Pittsburgh and Florida to start the year it seemed as though Niemi’s career was just about done. So when he was picked up off the scrap heap (aka waivers) by Marc Bergevin, much to the chagrin of just about everyone (myself included) expectations were low to say the least.
To everyone’s surprise, Niemi has been a revelation in Montreal, posting a .931 save percentage since he arrived and doing a good job thwarting the hopes of those hoping for the Habs to tank the rest of the way. We all know Stephane Waite is a well-respected goaltender coach – but with a turnaround like this, he may be the best around.
Stats: 6 GP, 3-1-1 record, 2.31 GAA, .931 Save %
Honourable Mention: Alex Galchenyuk
Still just 24 years old, Galchenyuk just passed the 400 games played mark and his play has continued to mature throughout the season. With the majority of the trade rumours apparently behind him, he has refocused on establishing himself as a top line force in the NHL. Galchenyuk has been able to deliver a much more consistent effort and his two-way game has begun to come around. When he is fully engaged, he has the ability to dominate.
The choice to hold onto Galchenyuk is looking a like a smart one for the Habs. He and Jonathan Drouin are at the front of a strong young forward group including Charles Hudon, Nikita Scherbak, and Artturi Lehkonen. It’s been a tough year, but there is some reason for optimism in Montreal.
Stats: 13 GP, 0 G, 7 A, 7 PTS, -2 rating