Although it proved to be for naught as the Habs fell just short of reaching the postseason, several forwards stepped up their play down the stretch and earned themselves high grades in the process.
Andrew Shaw – A: Remember back earlier in the season when Shaw looked like he’d be seeing some time on the fourth line? How quickly things can change. He was fantastic down the stretch and brought much more of an offensive game than anyone could have realistically expected. After a rough 2018-19 season, he has really rebuilt his value.
4th Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 7-12-19, +8, 16 PIMS, 48 shots
Max Domi – A: I was curious to see if Domi could settle down on the antics with the importance of the games picking up. Check. I was also curious to see if he’d elevate his game as a player that seems to thrive in the limelight. Check. Realistically, I don’t think the Habs could have asked much more from him over the final weeks of the season.
4th Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 8-11-19, +9, 4 PIMS, 67 shots
Jordan Weal – B+: It took too long for Weal to get into the lineup but he did well to make up for lost time when he was in there. He didn’t look out of place on the power play and gave the offensive line a dynamic that they were hoping Matthew Peca would be able to provide. Assuming he’s willing to take a bit of a pay cut (remember, for most of his contract he has played at the level of a fringe player), he’s worth keeping around.
4th Quarter Stats: 16 GP, 4-6-10, even rating, 2 PIMS, 30 shots
Paul Byron – B: Byron makes a huge difference in the bottom six when he’s in the lineup as he really deepens the roster and helps the penalty kill. They missed him in the three games he was out. He also finished up on a nice run offensively despite not seeing a ton of ice time with top talents. There’s no denying that he was one of the better bargains in the league though that will change as his cheap contract expires at the end of June.
4th Quarter Stats: 18 GP, 4-6-10, +5, 11 PIMS, 28 shots
Joel Armia – B: There’s no denying that Armia has the talent to be an impact player but inconsistency has held him back. The Habs benefitted from one of his upswings over the final quarter as he picked up more than half of his goal total for the season and scored some big ones along the way as well. A nice finish to his season.
4th Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 7-3-10, -5, 4 PIMS, 41 shots
Brendan Gallagher – B: Gallagher didn’t rise to the occasion for the stretch run but he certainly didn’t back down any either. Instead, it was same old, same old which is pretty good most of the time. He came up just shy of a new career-high in points but he did beat his goal mark from last season.
4th Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 7-5-12, even rating, 17 PIMS, 81 shots
Tomas Tatar – B-: Perhaps I’m being a little too picky here but I didn’t think Tatar made as much of an impact as he did in the segment before this. There weren’t many nights where the effort could be questioned but his dip in production was certainly ill-timed.
4th Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 5-8-13, +6, 8 PIMS, 38 shots
Phillip Danault – B-: I can’t harp on this too much given how well Danault played defensively but when you’re playing pretty much every game on the top line and even getting power play time at the end, scoring one goal is not something that can be entirely ignored. That’s the only blemish for his play over this stretch but it’s a notable one.
4th Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 1-11-12, +1, 2 PIMS, 35 shots
Artturi Lehkonen – B-: Lehkonen finally had a little good luck offensively and certainly didn’t look out of place when he was moved up alongside Domi and Shaw to finish the year. His limited production makes him seem expendable on the surface but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Habs view him as part of their long-term core and have no interest at all in moving him this summer.
4th Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 4-3-7, +1, 8 PIMS, 46 shots
Nate Thompson – C+: Early in the season, there was some stability on the fourth line but eventually, it became an issue. They brought in Thompson shortly after that and the stability returned. There’s nothing flashy to his game but his faceoff prowess and defensive skillset were things that the Habs certainly benefitted from.
4th Quarter Stats: 20 GP, 1-6-7, -4, 0 PIMS, 30 shots
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – C-: It’s safe to say he ran out of gas but in the grand scheme of things, that really wasn’t too surprising considering how much he played relative to previous years. It’s a disappointing end to his rookie campaign (pending a possible appearance at the Worlds) but all in all, it was a solid season from the number three pick.
4th Quarter Stats: 18 GP, 0-4-4, -4, 2 PIMS, 30 shots
Dale Weise – D+: Weise was basically a filler player when he was in the lineup. That’s basically what was expected from him when he was re-acquired but that’s still a pretty poor return considering he makes over $2 million per season.
4th Quarter Stats: 6 GP, 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIMS, 3 shots
Jonathan Drouin – D-: At a time where the Habs needed Drouin to step up, he did the exact opposite. While many of the forwards found a way to either pick up or at least maintain their level of play, Drouin became a liability most nights. Yes, he has dynamic offensive talent but when you’re just floating around most shifts, all the talent in the world isn’t going to do anything. It was noted in the exit interviews that he knows what he needs to do to improve. The question is if he already knew what he needed to do, why wasn’t he doing it in the first place?
4th Quarter Stats: 20 GP, 1-6-7, -6, 0 PIMS, 32 shots
N/A: Nicolas Deslauriers (4 GP), Matthew Peca (3 GP), Ryan Poehling (1 GP)