It has been a very disruptive time for the Montreal Canadiens during the second quarter of this season. GM Marc Bergevin replaced head coach Claude Julien, assistant coach Kirk Muller and goaltending coach Stephane Waite in response to a team slump. The midway point of the season recently passed and these grade reports reflect the goaltenders’ and defencemens’ performance for the second quarter.
Players must have played in a minimum of three games to receive a grade.
Carey Price – Grade: B
Stats: 10 GP, 5W, 3L, 2 OTL, 2.38 GAA, .920 SV%
Grade Comments: Carey struggled at the start of this quarter, allowing fourteen goals in three games during one stretch. The removal of the Habs goaltending coach since 2013 and replacing him with Sean Burke as the director of goaltending seems to have rejuvenated his season. Price appears to be following Burke’s goalie mantra, to stand up longer and stay back a little more in the crease. The results were very positive, allowing only four goals in his next four games while winning three of them. His save percentage has increased steadily during this time. It seems this coaching change has helped Carey at a very timely point in this season considering everything that has been going on with the club’s struggles and the coaching changes.
Jake Allen – Grade: B-
Stats: 4 GP, 0W, 1L, 3 OTL, 2.67 GAA, .905 SV%
Grade Comments: Jake struggled somewhat during his starts and unable to secure a win during any of his four games. It did not help that the team scored only seven goals in those matches. Despite the record, he has played well enough to give his team a chance to win; I cannot say he was the main reason for any of those losses. During some of the starts where Carey Price really struggled, I was surprised Allen was not given one or more of those to help take some of the heat off Montreal’s number one starter.
Jeff Petry – Grade: A+
Stats: 14 Games, 6 G, 8 A, +12, 2 PIM, 2 PPG, 24 Hits, 18 Bks, 37 Shots
Grade Comments: Mr. Everything for the Canadiens defence, Petry’s importance to this hockey club cannot be understated. This past quarter, he led all defencemen in goals, assists and ice time. The latter was a change from the first quarter, as Shea Weber had the most ice time. Much like other Habs, the coaching changes along with adjustments to the team’s strategies seem to have helped Petry’s offence. During the last seven games of the quarter, Jeff scored five goals, including four of them in the last five games. His defensive play has also been exemplary. Petry has been keeping among the top scorers in the NHL among defencemen which has kept some media continuing to talk about a Norris Trophy nomination at the end of this season, assuming he keeps up his great work.
Joel Edmundson – Grade: B+
Stats: 14 Games, 1 G, 2 A, +14, 9 PIM, 27 Hits, 18 Bks, 21 Shots
Grade Comments: Edmundson continued to provide very solid defence during this quarter. He stayed with his usual partner, Jeff Petry, up until Game 25 when Ben Chiarot suffered an injury during a road game, forcing the defensive pairs to get mixed up among the healthy defenders. Joel showed his versatility since that time, as he has been paired with Shea Weber and at times Alexander Romanov or Brett Kulak during the next three games. His plus/minus stats continued to lead the team. Joel is very much a big and steady defenceman who plays within his skating limitations but is a decent passer and will contribute a few shots on goal. The last game of this quarter had Edmundson paired with Weber and the two played well together for most of that game against Winnipeg.
Shea Weber – Grade: B+
Stats: 14 Games, 3 G, 2 A, +3, 10 PIM, 1 PPG, 22 Hits, 21 Bks, 35 Shots
Grade Comments: Weber was just a little disappointing during this quarter for a couple of reasons. His offensive production during the power play tailed off to only one point, where he generated six points in the first quarter. However, the team did draw fewer power play opportunities during the second quarter compared to the first. Weber did generate more shots on goal and did score one more goal but his total points dropped by two. Weber continued to draw most of the important defensive assignments against the opposition’s top lines. He also drew the most ice time during shorthanded situations, which shows the confidence the coaching staff continues to have in him. There was one game against Ottawa where Shea was so dominant, scoring two beautiful goals. However, in many other games, he is not dominating the play like he has in the past. He is still a big physical presence and can punish opponents when he feels the time is right.
Ben Chiarot – Grade: B-
Stats: 11 Games, 0 G, 1 A, -4, 16 PIM, 22 Hits, 14 Bks, 21 Shots
Grade Comments: Chiarot’s play dropped a bit during this quarter, similar to that of his partner Shea Weber. He played in the first 11 games until suffering a hand injury from a needless fight against J.T. Miller in Vancouver. While healthy, he was less aggressive in games, drawing fewer penalties but made around the same number of hits. Much like most of his other teammates, his offence dropped off as he produced only one point, compared to four points previously. Given his hand injury required surgery, Ben will be out of the lineup for six to eight weeks. This means he may return near the end of the season or be available for the playoffs should the Canadiens advance to the postseason.
Brett Kulak – Grade: B-
Stats: 11 Games, 0 G, 1 A, +3, 2 PIM, 4 Hits, 5 Bks, 8 Shots
Grade Comments: Brett was a healthy scratch for the first three games of this quarter, which the coach decided to give Victor Mete a few starts. There was not anything I can recall that was wrong with his game leading up to that time. Kulak was more a victim of the sixth defenceman shuffle that he is subject to along with Alexander Romanov, Xavier Ouellet and Victor Mete. If anything I have to say he’s been relatively consistent during this fourteen game block. Among these four defencemen, Brett is the oldest of the group and has the most NHL games in his career.
Alexander Romanov – Grade: B-
Stats: 14 Games, 0 G, 2 A, +2, 2 PIM, 38 Hits, 17 Bks, 18 Shots
Grade Comments: Alexander continues to adjust to the rigours and pace of the NHL for his rookie season. He scored only one less point this quarter than before. Like most rookies, he has made a few mistakes along the way as he learns what it’s like to play in the top pro hockey league in the world. He does make some quick decisions to make a big hit when he sees the opportunity and practically does so around once a game. Some opponents don’t care to be laid out by a rookie and have challenged him but he sticks up for himself up to the point of dropping his gloves (but not doing so). During most of his starts, his head coaches have kept him on the third pairing to shelter him from tougher opponents. After the injury to Chiarot, he has bounced up and down into the second and first pairings for a few opportunities. For a time he was paired with Weber and was not terrible but he also was not a great fit. I think Romanov is going to need more experience at the NHL level to get a stronger feel for the game before he’s ready for more responsibilities.
Victor Mete – Grade: D+
Stats: 5 Games, 0 G, 0 A, +2, 4 PIM, 5 Hits, 5 Bks, 3 Shots
Grade Comments: Victor has been out of the lineup more than in it this quarter. At the beginning of this quarter Mete was in the lineup for three straight games, but then was a healthy scratch for eight straight. He struggled a little getting back into a rhythm after being out for so long. At times he can be a very efficient puck-moving defenceman since his skating ability is very good and he can carry the puck out of the defensive zone and further. Once he’s there he struggles to make a good play that leads to a scoring chance and more often just turns over the puck. His small size limits him in his own zone since he is easily outmuscled by the opposition in the corners and in front of the net. After Chiarot was injured, he got a starting position again for two games but was then again healthy scratched for Xavier Ouellet.