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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

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

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

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

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

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

N/A grades (not enough GP): Gabriel Dumont, Patrick Holland, Louis Leblanc,
George Parros, Martin St.