After a bit of a down month in November, the Habs bounced back with a very strong showing to close the year out. They got scoring from all over the lineup and solid goaltending, leaving them in the thick of the playoff race. Meanwhile, the injury carousel continued with Joel Armia, Paul Byron and Shea Weber returning, but losing Andrew Shaw may be a bigger blow than anticipated.
First Star: Phillip Danault
With Domi and Drouin cooling off a bit, it was the Danault line that stepped up to carry the load in the second half of the month with Phillip leading the team in scoring.
The Tatar-Danault-Gallagher trio has stuck together since the beginning of the season, playing an aggressive, tenacious style and embodying what Claude Julien is hoping to get from the club on a regular basis. While the production has been a bit hit and miss, it does give the Habs a legitimate second line to roll out each night with Danault shouldering the defensive responsibilities. Though he may still be better suited to a third line centre role, he remains an important piece down the middle for a club that lacks natural centres at the NHL level
Stats: 15 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 13 PTS, +11 rating
Second Star: Jeff Petry
Petry is becoming a regular on this season’s three stars and continued to post great offensive numbers in December even with Shea Weber returning to take his spot on the top pairing.
While the return of Weber has moved Petry to both the second pairing and the second powerplay unit, he continues to play big minutes in all situations. This also gives Montreal impressive depth on the right side of the defence, allowing the team to focus on rebuilding the rather thin left side. Criminally underrated given his role on the team, acquiring Petry and re-signing him remains one of Bergevin’s best moves to date.
Stats: 15 GP, 6 G, 6 A, 12 PTS, -2 rating
Third Star: Shea Weber
The captain returned at the end of November and so far it appears that he hasn’t missed a beat after significant offseason knee surgery.
At 33, Weber is showing no signs of decline thus far and remains an elite, shutdown defenceman that plays big minutes and puts up points. His return to the lineup coincided with a return to form by his good buddy Carey Price and helped stabilize the defensive unit. So far he’s failed to ignite that Habs’ league-worst power play unit, but if they can get it going, the points will start to add up.
Stats: 15 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 PTS, +6 rating
Honourable Mention: Carey Price
Price was slow out of the gate this season but picked up his play considerably and posted strong numbers in December, showing the confidence and poise that we’re used to seeing from the all-star.
Though he missed a few games at the end of the month due to a nagging injury, Price has since returned to the lineup and will be a key factor in the Canadiens’ success. When he’s on his game, Price is among the best in the business and if he can maintain his strong play (and the power play improves) the Habs should remain in the mix for the playoffs.
Stats: 12 GP, 8-3-0, 2.42 G.A.A., 0.916 save %