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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.
The Habs have hit the one quarter mark of the season and find themselves right in the middle of the Eastern Conference. Although the offence has sputtered (Montreal sits in the bottom third of the league in goals scored per game) there have been a few players who have stood out in a positive way among those that have struggled. Here are the first quarter grades for the forwards.
Notes: Players must have played in at least 25% of Montreal's games (6 out of 21) to receive a grade. Stats are as of games played through November 16th.
Michael Blunden: D: He just made the cut based on games played but his stint with the Habs was far from a memorable one. He struggled significantly to the point where his minutes were being cut to only a couple of shifts per period. Blunden has played quite well in Hamilton this year but that has not been the case with Montreal.
Stats: 6 GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, -2 rating, 5 PIMS, 15 hits, 2 blocks, 1 shot
Rene Bourque: C: The criticisms we all heard when the Habs acquired him have started to re-surface in the early parts of the season. There are times when Bourque is one of the more dominant players out there while there are others where he isn't noticeable or worse, appears to not be going all out. But, on a team struggling to score, being tied for fourth in goals isn't all bad.
Stats: 21 GP, 5 goals, 1 assist, 6 points, -1 rating, 14 PIMS, 22 hits, 5 blocks, 42 shots
Michael Bournival: A: He wasn't expected to have much of an impact but instead, Bournival has been one of Montreal's most impressive and consistent performers. He has been used on several different lines and has even seen some special teams play. He has been by far the most pleasant surprise of the season.
Stats: 18 GP, 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points, +4 rating, 4 PIMS, 20 hits, 14 blocks, 33 shots
Daniel Briere: C: Prior to his concussion, Briere was in a battle with Desharnais for the Habs' biggest underachiever. Since then, he has had more of a positive impact in games despite seeing further reduction in ice time. If this continues, expect better things from him as the season progresses.
Stats: 11 GP, 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points, +1 rating, 8 PIMS, 7 hits, 1 blocks, 20 shots
David Desharnais: D-: I think he has played better in his past few games but this is a results-driven industry and suffice it to say, the results aren't there. I understand why the club is still giving him chances (with three full years left on top of this one, it's more worthwhile to keep trying to get him going then to bury him in the minors and forget about him for that long) but his nine lives are running out fast.
Stats: 19 GP, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, -2 rating, 6 PIMS, 3 hits, 13 blocks, 21 shots
Lars Eller: A-: The elder statesman on the 'EGG' line (or whatever you'd like to call it) has been affected by the bouts of inconsistency that have plagued this team so far this season but still is among the top scorers up front in spite of that. Unlike some of the other scufflers, even when he has had difficulty putting up the points, he has helped in other areas such as faceoffs and hits, both areas where he currently leads the team.
Stats: 21 GP, 7 goals, 6 assists, 13 points, +3 rating, 18 PIMS, 42 hits, 18 blocks, 47 shots
Alex Galchenyuk: A: Despite still having junior eligibility, Galchenyuk has become a focal point of the Habs' offence to the point where he leads all forwards in scoring. (I'll admit, I did not see that coming back in training camp.) As frustrating as it was at times last year to see him languishing on the bench in certain situations, it's hard to argue that the slow and steady approach the coaches took with him did anything but work as planned.
Stats: 21 GP, 4 goals, 11 assists, 15 points, +1 rating, 8 PIMS, 19 hits, 10 blocks, 45 shots
Brendan Gallagher: A-: In just his second year he leads the Habs in goals while still playing a style that gets under the skin of every opponent. If there's one criticism I could make, it's that he isn't as aggressive going into the boards as he was last season. On the plus side, that's likely helping to keep him healthy so I'm not too concerned there. Like Galchenyuk, he has taken on more responsibility this year and has made the most of it.
Stats: 20 GP, 8 goals, 4 assists, 12 points, +3 rating, 12 PIMS, 11 hits, 12 blocks, 63 shots
Brian Gionta: B-: It has been a tough stretch at times for the captain this year. Not only was he dealing with one of his children being quite ill, Gionta is also battling back from significant shoulder surgery for the second straight year. Despite that, he has produced at a level comparable to that of his past couple of seasons though has tailed off in recent games. Some are holding him to the expectation of a front liner but he hasn't been that for years, he's a secondary piece now and what he has provided is commensurate to that type of player.
Stats: 20 GP, 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points, -2 rating, 8 PIMS, 12 hits, 14 blocks, 50 shots
Travis Moen: C: The numbers don't really support it but Moen has played less tentatively than he did at times last season. Moen has been at his best when used in more than a fourth line role but given now that the team is healthy, he's going to have to figure out how to be more effective with fewer minutes.
Stats: 16 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, -1 rating, 14 PIMS, 19 hits, 6 blocks, 17 shots
Max Pacioretty: C-: Just like last year, Pacioretty is finding himself in an early slump. He has been more hesitant than before to drive the net although some of that may be attributable to the fact he's just coming back from injury; he may work that out of his system in time. Now that he's being paid like a top producer, the expectations are higher and he has not lived up to them in the early going.
Stats: 12 GP, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, -5 rating, 6 PIMS, 12 hits, 8 blocks, 42 shots
Tomas Plekanec: B: Like many of the veterans, Plekanec has slumped at inopportune times but it's important to still note his defensive play which continues to be good. The emergence of the youngsters has lifted some of offensive pressure off his shoulders and lets him settle in as a #2 centre, a role his is more suited for. That will lower his numbers though which is why this grade isn't a bit lower.
Stats: 21 GP, 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points, +3 rating, 8 PIMS, 12 hits, 15 blocks, 53 shots
Brandon Prust: B: When healthy, he has been his usual self, making the team a bit harder to play against while creating some space for his more skilled linemates. Prust has also chipped in with a few points to help the cause. I'd like to see him be a bit more picky when deciding to fight as he has been injury prone as of late; it would be nice to see him get through a large portion of the schedule relatively unscathed.
Stats: 10 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points, +3 rating, 21 PIMS, 15
hits, 5 blocks, 13 shots
Ryan White: C-: Short of some improved play while shorthanded, White has brought very little to the table this year, resulting in little surprise that he is currently the odd man out in the lineup. His physical play has been reduced, his faceoffs, while still slightly above average, are down, and he is no threat at all in the offensive zone. He'll get his chance soon enough but he will need to make more of an impact while avoiding the incidences of crossing the line that hurt him last season.
Stats: 18 GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, -3 rating, 23 PIMS, 24 hits, 14 blocks, 19 shots
- First Quarter Grades: Goalies & Defencemen posted by Matt Dilworth