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- With a $5 M cap hit, Sergei Gonchar is one of the most expensive d-men in franchise history. The only ones higher are P.K. Subban ($9 M), Andrei Markov ($5.75 M), Mathieu Schneider ($5.75 M), and Roman Hamrlik ($5.5 M).
The votes have been counted, and the Habsworld readers have made their opinions known. With a 4-2-0 record in the month of January, there were plenty of candidates for 3 Star consideration. Rene Bourque, Raphael Diaz, Alexei Emelin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price and Brendan Prust all received votes, but one ultimately distanced himself from the pack.
#1 - Andrei Markov (6GP - 4 Goals - 4 Assists - 8 Points - Minus 1 Rating)
One of the biggest question marks coming into this season, the oft-injured Markov silenced his critics with an impressive performance in January. Quarterbacking the powerplay with Raphael Diaz at his side, Markov brought stability to a unit that struggled mightily without him the last two years. In fact, all 8 points from Markov came with the man advantage. His calm presence on the back-end has contributed to a consistent breakout, and Alexei Emelin has flourished beside him at even-strength. His return to form has provided Montreal a true #1 defenceman, which has permitted the other blue liners to adopt less strenuous roles, benefitting Montreal. Although Markov's play may not have shocked those who believed in him during the darker days, but did anyone really believe that he would be this good?
92% of 1st Star votes, 5% of 2nd Star votes, 1% of 3rd Star votes.
#2 - Carey Price (4-1-0, 1.98 GAA, .924 SV%)
A quick glance at the peripheral stats might have you temporarily believing that you're looking at Henrik Lundqvist's numbers; the truth is that Carey Price was phenomenal in January. His sole loss occurred at the home opener, and certainly he couldn't be blamed for the two powerplay goals against. In fact, Price would remain unbeaten at even-strength until the 3rd period of his third game, signifying how solid he was in net. As usual, Price's performance goes beyond the numbers, and is of much greater significance to the team. His puck-handling skills, though not perfect, are improved this season, and he is among the best in the league in the role of 3rd defenceman. Price's knack to make key stops at crucial moments remains intact, and there is no doubt that he is a huge part of Montreal's successes thus far.
7% of 1st Star votes, 42% of 2nd Star votes, 13% of 3rd Star votes.
#3 - Alex Galchenyuk (6GP - 1 Goals - 4 Assists - 5 Points - Plus 3 Rating)
To be perfectly honest, I thought that it would be a little longer before we started seeing Galchenyuk make this list. But the rookie has made an impressive case for himself, giving Michel Therrien no choice but to keep him with the big club, and garnering an excess of votes both at Habsworld and at the Bell Centre. Meshing quickly with fellow rookie, Brendan Gallagher, Galchenyuk brought his blossoming skills to the third line and posed a new threat to the opposition's weaker pairings. Although he has yet to dominate at the NHL level, "Chucky" has shown flashes of what he will eventually bring on a nightly basis, and his play regularly leaves Canadiens' fans wanting more. Moreover, it is not just his offensive game that has impressed; Galchenyuk continues to improve in the face-off dot, and he has earned his coach's trust to play important minutes late in games.
1% of 1st Star votes, 13% of 2nd Star votes, 21% of 3rd Star votes.
HM - Raphael Diaz (6GP - 0 Goals - 8 Assists - 8 Points - Plus 1 Rating)
Diaz technically tied with Alex Galchenyuk in the voting, but lost out in the tie-breaker. Ultimately, it is the Canadiens that have been the winners with the Swiss blue liner's strong play in January. Diaz's performance minimized the impact of P.K. Subban's contract holdout and absence, as he led the team in assists and points. Paired with Andrei Markov on the powerplay, Diaz's creativity and accurate shot have contributed to the early successes with the man advantage. Diaz has also been effective at even-strength situations, as he and Josh Gorges have become an effective, if not flashy pair. It appears that Diaz has benefitted from his time overseas, and has become a valuable contributor to Montreal's depth on defence, pushing lesser defencemen to the press box.
0% of 1st Star votes, 15% of 2nd Star votes, 20% of 3rd Star votes.
Thanks to all that voted, and we'll see you next month!