The Canadiens remain at the top of the Eastern Conference and are still in the hunt to finish first overall. The debate continues as to whether or not Montreal is a “legitimate” contender for the Stanley Cup, but the team is silencing many doubters as it continues to win, posting at least
eight victories in every month of the season to-date. Although many of the faithful were
clamouring for a trade for a big, scoring winger at the trade deadline, Marc Bergevin stuck to his plan and acquired affordable help on the blueline and on
defence. With the goaltending and defence the team has there is no reason why the Canadiens can’t contend for their 25th
Stanley Cup. While they have gained on Tampa Bay for first in the Atlantic, with 41 wins, 16 losses, and
five overtime losses for 87 points, the fight for first in the division figures to go down to the end of the season. The team has stopped losing games to weaker teams but as it has been all season, the power play is still a problem area. Despite the lack of power play production and overall an anemic
offence, this team just continues racking up wins.
Players must have played in at least five games to receive a grade.
Max Pacioretty A: As he has been all season, Pacioretty continues to be the Canadiens’ leading scorer and is on pace for 36 goals and 30 assists. Max has already scored 30 goals and has a good chance to equal or surpass last year’s totals. Pacioretty has also continued his outstanding
defence and penalty killing as well as scoring. As discussed, Max is building a strong case for the Captaincy next season.
3rd Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 12 goals, 10 assists, 22 points, +14 rating, 2 PIMS,
Tomas Plekanec A-: After a bit of a slump, Plekanec has picked up his offensive game again. Tomas shuts down the opposition’s best scorers, kills penalties and plays an excellent all-around game. One of the most underrated players on the team, he is on pace to score 60 points for the first time since 2009-10.
3rd Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points, +2 rating,
24 PIMS, 71 shots
Brendan Gallagher B: What is there to say about Gallagher that has not been already said? Speed, hustle, fierce competitiveness and the drive to go to the dirty dangerous areas of the ice makes Gallagher a linchpin of this team’s
offence. He continues to infuriate opposing goalies and defencemen and takes enough punishment for three players.
3rd Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 6 goals, 10 assists, 16 points, +6 rating, 8 PIMS,
David Desharnais B: Desharnais has played up and down the lineup this season and is currently back where he has had so much success as Pacioretty’s centre. Much maligned by Habs faithful for his size and lack of physicality, Desharnais is much more effective on
defence than his detractors admit. With his elite passing skills, his offence will only improve if he continues to shoot more rather than always looking for the pass.
3rd Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 5 goals, 12 assists, 17 points, +15 rating, 2 PIMS,
Dale Weise B: Although detractors mock Weise’s periodic promotions to the top line he has been productive and effective anywhere from the first to the fourth line. Recently, he was even able to set up
Manny Malhotra for a goal which no other player had been able to do this season. Weise is underrated as he has decent offensive skills, harries and pounds the opposition on the forecheck, and he can play from the top to the bottom of the lineup. Already on pace for career highs offensively, Weise
has not lost sight of the fact that his physical game is a key to his and the
team’s success. His hit total trails only Alexei Emelin.
3rd Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points, +7 rating, 4 PIMS,
Jacob de la Rose B: While it has been a very small sample size,
de la Rose has been a pleasant surprise for Les Canadiens. Only 19 years old, he has nevertheless played outstanding two-way hockey and demonstrated a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and a willingness to hit, on
defence. It will be interesting to see if he can develop more of an offensive touch.
3rd Quarter Stats: 13 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points, -3 rating, 2 PIMS, 11 shots
Alex Galchenyuk B: The centre experiment with Galchenyuk did not last long. After a recent bout of
the flu, Alex came back strong and showed off his dazzling offensive skills. Unfortunately, he has been very quiet in the last few games. In fairness, this evaluation is probably a little low due to the extremely high expectations placed on Galchenyuk.
3rd Quarter Stats: 19 GP, 8 goals, 4 assists, 12 points, +5 rating, 6 PIMS,
Brandon Prust B-: As he has been all season, Prust is a valuable penalty killer, a hard forechecker who lays the body on the opposition and he is the only player on the team to fight regularly. However, his offensive production has been minimal, although he has been garnering more chances (and
greatly reduced his earlier, annoying habit of turning over the puck in the offensive zone). He has tallied only
two goals and six assists since the first quarter of the season. With Prust, the question is always:
"How much longer is he going to be able to continue to be effective given that he is often fighting much larger opponents and playing such a physical game?"
3rd Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, even rating, 24 PIMS,
Lars Eller C: As he has been throughout his career in Montreal, Eller is maddeningly inconsistent. He can be dazzling one game and invisible the next. Despite generating numerous chances Eller often seems incapable of finishing. The question remains: “Is he a top six forward or a third-liner?” Hope remains that Eller can pick it up in the playoffs like he did last season, but is he going to be a constant tease and disappointment like Rene Bourque? Only time will tell.
3rd Quarter Stats: 21 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, -8 rating, 18 PIMS,
Manny Malhotra C: Despite Malhotra’s excellence in the faceoff circle, and the increased proficiency of all the Canadiens’ faceoff men since his arrival on the team, he has found himself in the press box on numerous occasions as he produces very little offensively. Although he finally scored his first goal of the season, it doesn’t look like his production is
going to rise significantly. It will be interesting to see where Malhotra fits with the new additions of Mitchell and Flynn. It appears as though he will be spending a great deal of game time in the press box.
3rd Quarter Stats: 15 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, -1 rating, 4 PIMS,
Michael Bournival C-: Bournival played sparingly despite having excellent speed and being effective defensively and on the forecheck. Unfortunately, like most of Montreal’s bottom six, he generated very little scoring despite generating some nice opportunities. He was sent down on deadline day to make room for Mitchell and Flynn.
3rd Quarter Stats: 18 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, +2 rating, 4 PIMS,
Christian Thomas C-: Although he showed tenacity and competitiveness, Thomas needs to get stronger, and to be given a chance in a top six role, in order to be effective. Miscast on Montreal’s fourth line he was unable to produce much
offence and at times struggled against bigger stronger opponents. He was sent down just prior to the deals for Mitchell and Flynn.
3rd Quarter Stats: 17 GP, 1 goal, 0 assists, 1 point, -1 rating, 7 PIMS, 25 shots
N/A: P-A Parenteau, Devante Smith-Pelly (not enough GP)