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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
We're not even a month into the NHL season and already the Habs have hit the quarter pole. The team, despite all of the recent negativity surrounding it, is off to a fairly strong start to the year with a 7-4-1 record which is good for 7th in the East. Let's take a look back at the season so far with the first quarter report cards, beginning with the goaltenders and defencemen.
Peter Budaj: D+: I honestly don't think he has been as bad as some fans claim. Yes, his rebound control is virtually non-existent and his numbers aren't pretty but he was hung out to dry in his first game which explains part of that. He certainly needs to be better when he gets his next start though.
Stats: 2 GP, 0-1-1 record, 4.32 GAA, .866 SV%
Carey Price: B: I like that Price hasn't been counted on to steal games and he has, with the exception of the blowout loss vs Toronto, played well consistently. One small concern I have is his 3rd period performance; of the 23 goals he has allowed, 11 have been in the final frame. That could stand to be dropped but beyond that, he is off to a fine start.
Stats: 10 GP, 7-3-0 record, 2.27 GAA, .915 SV%
Francis Bouillon: B-: A #6 defenceman who can log reasonable minutes. It doesn't sound like too much to ask but for Montreal in recent years it has been challenging. Bouillon has been able to play those minutes without causing too many mistakes. Yes, his smaller stature is problematic at times but I'd say he has given the team exactly what they were looking for from him.
Stats: 12 GP, 0 goals, 4 assists, +1 rating, 4 PIMS, 12 SOG, 23 hits, 8 blocked shots
Raphael Diaz: A-: Did anyone else think he'd be leading the team in assists after a quarter of the season? He has tailed off a bit in recent games but he has turned into a steady second pairing defenceman that doesn't need shielded minutes like he was getting last year. For what he's making (a cap hit of $1.225M), he's a good bargain.
Stats: 12 GP, 0 goals, 9 assists, even rating, 4 PIMS, 20 SOG, 7 hits, 21 blocked shots
Alexei Emelin: B: He has been quieter this year and that's not a bad thing. His defensive play has improved (although he does get caught out of position from time to time, part of that is attributable to playing his unnatural side) while he remains a physical presence. I'd like to see him be a bit more involved offensively as I think he's underrated in that area but that's a minor concern at this point.
Stats: 12 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, even rating, 6 PIMS, 6 SOG, 47 hits, 10 blocked shots
Josh Gorges: C: Perhaps it's because he has been used a little differently than last season (he hasn't been the prime shutdown defenceman) but he hasn't had the same impact on games as he before, particularly in the physical department. He isn't playing poorly and he's still blocking shots but given the new big contract he has, it's fair to expect him to play better than he has early on.
Stats: 12 GP, 1 goal, 0 assists, -2 rating, 9 PIMS, 8 SOG, 13 hits, 35 blocked shots
Tomas Kaberle: C-: Nothing much has changed from his playing style from last season - he's still a gifted puck mover but needs to be sheltered defensively. With the added (and, for now, healthy) depth, his slow start to the year now has him as a regular in the press box. He needs to make the most of his next opportunity, whenever it may come.
Stats: 6 GP, 0 goals, 1 assist, +2 rating, 0 PIMS, 7 SOG, 2 hits, 4 blocked shots
Andrei Markov: A-: We were all hoping he'd be able to come back and be a top pairing player but I don't think many thought it could happen. Markov has added so much to the blueline from upgraded powerplay movement to smart defensive zone play and is a big reason this team is where it is. However, he already is beginning to show signs of fatigue at times which is a little worrisome given that there are at least 36 more games to play.
Stats: 12 GP, 4 goals, 6 assists, -2 rating, 6 PIMS, 16 SOG, 6 hits, 23 blocked shots
P.K. Subban: B+: It has been a controlled but slow progression since he joined the team after his contract dispute and Subban has played well. He, for the most part, is playing more controlled which was a big concern of mine heading into the season. I expect that over the next few weeks, he will continue to take on more ice time which is what a lot of fans are hoping for.
Stats: 6 GP, 3 goals, 3 assists, even rating, 6 PIMS, 13 SOG, 8 hits, 8 blocked shots
Yannick Weber: N/A: He needs to play more to be able to objectively evaluate him but with him being #8 on the depth chart at the moment, I'm not sure he's going to get that chance.
Stats: 1 GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, even rating, 0 PIMS, 0 SOG, 1 hit, 2 blocked shots