This is the third of the two-part grade articles evaluating the Montreal Canadiens goaltenders and defencemen during the third quarter. The period of games spans March 17 through April 17.
Players must have played in a minimum of three games to receive a grade.
Jake Allen – Grade: B+
Stats: 8 GP, 3W, 4L, 1 OTL, 2.65 GAA, .905 SV%
Grade Comments: After Carey Price went down to an injury during the April 5th game versus Edmonton, Allen stepped up to become the interim starting goalie. He then played six straight games until Price returned to the lineup. I believe his play improved and he did not buckle under the extra stress and focus of being the team’s top (healthy) goaltender. Although the team struggled during this third quarter, Allen managed three wins, which is more than he earned during the second quarter. When I consider all of Jake’s starts, the Habs scored only 17 goals in eight games which shows the team failed to support him with much offence.
Carey Price – Grade: D
Stats: 6 GP, 3W, 2L, 1 OTL, 2.93 GAA, .865 SV%
Grade Comments: Much like the first quarter of this season, Carey struggled in nearly every start. He had both a worse save percentage and goals against average compared to the beginning segment. Ironically, his two good starts were both against Edmonton, when he allowed only two goals combined for those matches. Perhaps he was trying to play through an issue before an announcement was made about his lower-body injury. Unfortunately, his return game was a 4-0 loss by Ottawa, where he allowed three goals on only 14shots. I can’t help but wonder if he came back too soon.
Jeff Petry – Grade: B
Stats: 14 Games, 0 G, 5 A, -8, 2 PIM, 30 Hits, 18 Bks, 36 Shots
Grade Comments: Something happened to the Habs most valuable defenceman during this quarter. This is the first span of 14 games where he failed to score a goal, and yet he had only one less shot on goal than last quarter. For most of this quarter, his partner at even strength was Brett Kulak and Joel Edmundson at the end. That is a relatively stable environment for Petry to line up beside so it’s not clear to me why his production has tailed off so suddenly. I recall watching Petry jump into the play with the puck about as often as he has in the first half of the season. From what I can recall, Edmundson was Petry’s partner for most of the first half of this season. For what it’s worth, Petry’s plus/minus was only -1 for the four games where he was reunited with Edmundson this quarter.
Shea Weber – Grade: B
Stats: 14 Games, 0 G, 6 A, +0, 11 PIM, 21 Hits, 22 Bks, 32 Shots
Grade Comments: Despite not scoring any goals in the third quarter, Shea did improve his assists and managed only one point less than last quarter. Weber produced more shots during this game span but I noticed more wrist shots than before. His bread-and-butter slapshot has long been his best offensive weapon. When I compare the goal drought that Jeff Petry has also faced, I am starting to wonder if the team’s head coach and/or assistant coach in charge of the defencemen are adjusting all the blueliner’s play, which is limiting their scoring chances.
Joel Edmundson – Grade: B-
Stats: 14 Games, 1 G, 2 A, +1, 8 PIM, 29 Hits, 29 Bks, 21 Shots
Grade Comments: Although Joel will never be considered an offensive threat, when he does contribute some points he is very consistent. This is the third quarter in a row where Edmundson has produced exactly one goal to go along with two assists. For this period of games, Edmundson was paired mostly with Shea Weber, but that pairing does not appear to be as effective as the coaches expected they would. That change may have negatively impacted Jeff Petry’s games since his numbers plummeted since that switch. He was reunited, but we may have to wait until the fourth quarter to see if that will kickstart Petry’s performance.
Brett Kulak – Grade: B-
Stats: 14 Games, 1 G, 2 A, +0, 4 PIM, 10 Hits, 20 Bks, 25 Shots
Grade Comments: Brett bounced around a lot with different partners on the blueline. Despite that, he did play every game this quarter which was the first time he was not a healthy scratch. Perhaps the coaching staff is getting more confident in his play. However, that contradicts the general manager’s two trades to acquire experienced defencemen who will likely supplant Kulak in the lineup next quarter.
Victor Mete – Grade: C+
Stats: 7 Games, 0 G, 3 A, +3, 0 PIM, 2 Hits, 1 Bks, 5 Shots
Grade Comments: Victor must have been told he was going to be moved, and based on his trade request earlier in the season, he responded by playing relatively well. For some reason, he was benched late in the second period of the April 8th game against Winnipeg and never played another minute in that game for the Habs. I recall a span of about a minute during Victor’s last shift where he and his teammates were pinned in their defensive zone for just over a minute. Perhaps Mete did something wrong to drive the coach’s decision to remove him from play. The GM put Mete on waivers soon after that game and he was picked up by Ottawa so Habs fans will still see Victor play often enough for the opposition.
Alexander Romanov – Grade: C+
Stats: 14 Games, 0 G, 0 A, +1, 2 PIM, 42 Hits, 13 Bks, 20 Shots
Grade Comments: Although Romanov did not produce any points, I still see the promise for that to come together for him in the future. He has jumped into the play a few times due to his excellent skating and has good intuition on when to do so. Few times has that happened when he has been badly burned to cost his team a counter strike. The coaches purposely kept him away from the top defencemen on this team and was paired primarily with Victor Mete, Xavier Ouellet or Brett Kulak. I really like his energy on the ice, which reminds me a little of former Hab P.K. Subban. Fortunately, Alexander’s defensive game is not as reckless as Subban’s. He led all Canadiens’ blueliners in hits.
Xavier Ouellet – Grade: D
Stats: 4 Games, 0 G, 0 A, -3, 2 PIM, 12 Hits, 5 Bks, 3 Shots
Grade Comments: Xavier is a fill-in piece at this moment of his career, sort of a tweener. He’s very good at the AHL level, but not good enough to crack an NHL squad and hold a regular spot in the lineup. To be honest, I hold my breath any time I see Ouellet with the puck or the opponent carrying the puck approach him. Once the two new defencemen obtained before the trade deadline are cleared to play for Montreal, I do not expect to see him play for the Habs for the rest of the season.