After a rough first quarter of the season, the second wasn’t any better for the Habs. Nevertheless, there are still some decent grades in our report cards, beginning as always with the goaltenders and defencemen.
Players must have played in 5/21 games to receive a grade.
Samuel Montembeault – C+: Towards the end of this stretch is when Montembeault was at his best, helping the Canadiens steal some points that they had no business getting (which really stands out when they don’t have many points in the standings). However, for the most part, the 25-year-old was his usual competitive self but with a tendency for at least one very untimely soft goal per game. If he can shake that, he could be a reasonable NHL backup. With Montreal’s injuries, he’ll have some more time to prove his worthiness.
Stats: 9 GP, 1-3-3 record, 3.83 GAA, .908 SV%
Jake Allen – D: Yes, he still didn’t get any goal support but Allen would have needed a lot of it to have a shot at some wins as he allowed three or more goals seven times in his ten appearances (and he was injured in one of the three he didn’t allow three or more in). The Habs need Allen to give them some stability between the pipes but there were a lot of nights when he was just as erratic as Montembeault. He’ll miss most of the third quarter of the season due to a lower-body injury, one that likely takes any chance of a trade off the table as well.
Stats: 10 GP, 1-8-1 record, 3.66 GAA, .897 SV%
N/A: Michael McNiven (1 GP), Cayden Primeau (4 GP)
Alexander Romanov – B-: Dominique Ducharme talked about how Romanov’s play improved when he started playing more aggressively and it was at the beginning of this stretch where he really started to stand out in that regard. Now, the question is can he take on a bigger role and maintain that level of aggression? The early results haven’t been the greatest but with nothing left to play for, it’d be nice to see him get an extended look in the second half rather than being on the third pairing.
Stats: 19 GP, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, -3 rating, 18 PIMS, 22 shots, 19:45 ATOI
Kale Clague – B-: His start with the Habs was rocky but, for the most part, Clague has been the most impressive of the low-cost offensive-minded blueliners that the Habs have rolled out this season. He has helped in the transition game with some quick puck movement and he’s a better skater than I remembered him being back in junior. That’s a pretty intriguing combo for a waiver claim that came in with no expectations. He’s certainly worthy of some regular minutes in the second half to assess whether he can be a sixth or seventh defender beyond this season which made Ducharme’s decision to make him a multi-game scratch lately quite a head-scratcher.
Stats: 10 GP, 1 goal, 0 assists, 1 point, even rating, 6 PIMS, 8 shots, 18:48 ATOI
David Savard – C+: Savard continued to be miscast in his role but that’s by no fault of his own (it’s just that no one was playing that well either). He has had some stretches where he hasn’t made many mistakes but those he made often landed in the back of the net or at least yielded a strong scoring chance which has sort of skewed the negativity a bit too much the other. In a limited role, he could be useful. That said, with the team expected to sell, it’s hard to see him being in that limited role down the stretch when he returns from his ankle injury.
Stats: 21 GP, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, -10 rating, 18 PIMS, 25 shots, 22:02 ATOI
Sami Niku – C+: Niku didn’t get a chance to play much but was relatively productive when he did suit up. That’s the conundrum with him in general though – he’ll put up some points but his defensive play is weak enough that it’s hard to play him. Now, for someone on a minimum contract who came in with that reputation, I can justify this grade as he is one of the few players on this team that has actually played close to expectations. He’s a fringe role player and with Savard out, he might get a shot at some more NHL action if he’s not included as a throw-in in a trade (if they want to trade for a third goalie to allow Primeau to stay in Laval, I think Niku is the top candidate, especially since he has cleared waivers and can be stashed in the minors).
Stats: 8 GP, 0 goals, 4 assists, 4 points, even rating, 0 PIMS, 10 shots, 15:44 ATOI
Brett Kulak – C: There were a lot of extreme lows from the Habs in the second quarter of the season but Kulak really wasn’t among those. He was more or less the same as he has always been – a good play here or there that gets your attention but generally mediocre at best the rest of the time. He’s always going to be someone where some of the possession numbers make him out to be a better defender than he actually is and he’ll be a good test for Montreal’s more analytical approach. Do they want to buy the numbers and try to keep him or will the eye test that says he’s a sixth or seventh defender on a lot of teams prevail and they move on?
Stats: 15 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, -8 rating, 17 PIMS, 10 shots, 17:59 ATOI
Ben Chiarot – C-: The more Chiarot plays like this, the harder it’s going to be for the Habs to command a first-round pick for him (a price I don’t think a team will meet over the next six weeks either). He’s overmatched on the top pairing and has uncharacteristically struggled as a result. He’s inexplicably a staple on the power play despite not being an offensive-minded blueliner in the slightest and while power play time is supposed to be soft minutes, I can’t help but wonder if getting him off there might actually help him a bit at five-on-five. Here’s hoping the All-Star break gives him enough rest to bounce back to boost his trade value.
Stats: 18 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, -14 rating, 14 PIMS, 37 shots, 23:41 ATOI
Chris Wideman – D+: Not much changed from the first quarter of the season for Wideman. He can run a power play but not a whole lot else goes well when he’s on the ice. The problem (which isn’t just his fault) is that the power play doesn’t produce enough to justify them giving Wideman as long of a leash as they have. He continued to struggle mightily in his own end and if he can’t put enough points to make up for the goals he causes in his own end, he’s a net negative that shouldn’t be a fixture on the third pairing. With a cheap contract, he should be able to yield a late-round pick at the deadline but I wouldn’t be opposed to moving him sooner and giving someone like Niku a longer look.
Stats: 13 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, -10 rating, 8 PIMS, 14 shots, 14:52 ATOI
Jeff Petry – D-: Petry has started to play a little better in recent weeks at times but that’s a pretty low bar to clear. It’s hard to put a finger on what’s going on – it’s obvious he’s not a fan of Ducharme and wouldn’t mind a trade but that alone isn’t the root cause of all of his struggles. It’s not as if he can flip a switch and suddenly look like the Petry of old; if he could do that, we’d have seen more good stretches from him throughout the year. But considering the role he’s supposed to be playing for this team, there’s no way to spin the poor performance. He simply hasn’t played anywhere near close to good enough.
Stats: 14 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, -3 rating, 48 PIMS, 18 shots, 21:54 ATOI
N/A: Mattias Norlinder, Corey Schueneman (four games each)