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With the quarter mark recently having passed, we wrap up our first quarter report cards.  This time, the focus is on the goalies and defencemen.

Players must have played in 5/21 games to receive a grade.


Samuel Montembeault

Fan Vote Average: 7.9, Writer Vote Average: 8.2

Montembeault has been a revelation to start this season, and his strong play has started a goaltending “controversy” for the first quarter of this season. I was not impressed with his results for most of last year. However, the team was ineptly coached for nearly the first half of the season until Martin St. Louis took over. Montembeault also suffered an upper-body injury partway through last season and now I feel that must have impacted his play before and after that occurred. It’s a shame he’s been allowed to start two consecutive games only twice so far this season. Another telling statistic is that Samuel only allowed more than three goals, once in his eight starts in this stretch.

Stats: 8 GP, 5-2-1 record, 2.48 GAA, .924 SV%

Jake Allen

Fan Vote Average: 6.0, Writer Vote Average: 6.1

A big reason the Habs record has not been better has been due to Allen. This is the Allen I remember playing so inconsistently as the starter for the St. Louis Blues over the better part of his seven seasons to start his NHL career. To me, he is such a frustrating goaltender to watch, since he is capable of making some good saves sometimes but then allows an easy goal or two which torpedoes the Canadiens’ chance of winning or even garnering one point. Allen has had injury issues the past few seasons, so that’s likely to happen again this season. If he’s playing through an injury then I could accept that and grade him a little better.

Stats: 13 GP, 6-7-0 record, 3.61 GAA, .891 SV%


Kaiden Guhle

Fan Vote Average: 8.1, Writer Vote Average: 8.2

One thing I will give Marc Bergevin credit for is leaving Guhle alone to finish his junior playing career. Bergevin too often than not, allowed or encouraged his first-round draft picks to start their pro career early. That development time benefited Guhle’s growth and gave him an optimum path to becoming a pro player. Despite his lack of experience, Guhle rose to the top pairing for most of the first quarter and has looked like a five-year veteran. The return of Mike Matheson (as long as he can stay healthy) should slot Guhle down a notch. Given more time to adjust to playing pro, I could see him becoming a permanent top pairing on the blueline. Guhle tied for the scoring lead among Habs blueliners, with his usual partner David Savard.

Stats: 21 GP, 1 G, 7 A, 8 Pts, -6 Rating, 21 PIM, 17 Shots, 43 Hits, 35 Blocked Shots, 20:22 ATOI

Arber Xhekaj

Fan Vote Average: 7.4, Writer Vote Average: 7.3

Arber was anointed one of the better hockey nicknames of the decade, when a teammate called him “Wi-Fi”, obviously due to the spelling of his last name. His junior hockey nickname of “The Sheriff” may be more apt, as he is a fearless player who will drop the gloves whenever necessary. Unlike previous Habs tough guys, Arber does not go looking for a fight but is very willing to lay the lumber on an opponent or provide a big check to provide intimidation. His skating is much better than I expected, and his offensive production is very surprising. His three goals led all Montreal defenders in the first quarter and he has shown a very accurate wrist shot. Sometimes he can be overzealous with his stick and takes extra penalties. That collateral damage is to be expected as Arber leaves his mark on opponents, both figuratively and literally.

Stats: 20 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 Pts, 0 Rating, 47 PIM, 36 Shots, 65 Hits, 20 Blocked Shots, 15:50 ATOI

David Savard

Fan Vote Average: 7.2, Writer Vote Average: 7.2

I wasn’t a big fan of Savard after I saw him play for Montreal to start last season. There were some bright spots to Savard during the second half of the year that gave me hope his free agency signing would not be an Alzner-level bust. This season he has restored my faith in him as a capable veteran player. With injuries to Mike Matheson and Joel Edmundson in the pre-season, David was thrust into the top pairing role. When you consider he has been partnered with rookie Kaiden Guhle, David has performed very well.

Stats: 21 GP, 1 G, 7 A, 8 PTS, -2 Rating, 16 PIM, 20 Shots, 16 Hits, 65 Blocked Shots, 1 GWG, 22:26 ATOI

Jordan Harris

Fan Vote Average: 7.0, Writer Vote Average: 7.0

Harris has adapted well to start his first pro season after graduating from college last spring and getting into ten games to end last season in Montreal. He brings great mobility to the blueline as his skating is first-rate. He also shows great positional play and makes correct decisions much more often than not. The pairing he had with Jonathan Kovacevic was the second most often used, and by some metrics, it was their most efficient. That is particularly true for defensive situations. Although he has the third most points among Canadiens’ defencemen, I predict he has more offensive potential still to come.

Stats: 18 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 Pts, +1 Rating, 6 PIM, 26 Shots, 15 Hits, 34 Blocked Shots, 19:21 ATOI

Jonathan Kovacevic

Fan Vote Average: 6.8, Writer Vote Average: 7.2

Jonathan was a surprise waiver wire selection that took place late during the preseason. With Justin Barron being another right-handed shot on the blueline, this move was not expected at the time. However, Kovacevic played well and GM Kent Hughes determined Barron needed more seasoning in the AHL. Kovacevic is a big-body blueliner with decent mobility. He does not think offence first but can provide a good first pass to start the play from his own end. His defensive game is pretty sound, and like all the Habs defencemen, he does make an occasional mistake. Those are easy to explain away, as he is adjusting and adapting to playing in the NHL.

Stats: 19 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 Pts, +5 Rating, 6 PIM, 27 Shots, 22 Hits, 19 Blocked Shots, 16:52 ATOI

Joel Edmundson

Fan Vote Average: 5.8, Writer Vote Average: 4.8

Joel missed the start of the season with a lower-body injury, which many speculate is the recurring back injury that he suffered last year, causing him to miss most of last season. He has started slowly this season but can still play a very physical style of game. However, his mobility and decision-making are often poor, leading to bad turnovers and often goals against. Since the team is in a rebuilding stage, the Habs can afford to play Edmundson with the hope that another team will make an offer for him before the trade deadline. Joel is still under contract through to next season which would not make him a typical rental player, but Hughes was able to find a team interested in trading for Tyler Toffoli last season who was about the same age and with the same term left on his contract.

Stats: 11 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, 2 PIM, -2 Rating, 20 Shots, 13 Hits, 39 Blocked Shots, 20:04 ATOI

Chris Wideman

Fan Vote Average: 5.1, Writer Vote Average: 4.8

I have not always been a fan of Wideman due to his defensive gaffes. When he commits one of those, it usually leads to the puck ending up in the Montreal net. Chris has good mobility and offensive skills, so I hoped he would fit in well into coach Martin St. Louis’ hockey philosophies and strategies. When I don’t notice Wideman this season, then that’s a good sign that he’s having a strong game. For now, he will continue to be a fringe player in the lineup.

Stats: 12 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 PTS, 23 PIM, +1 Rating, 17 Shots, 3 Hits, 17 Blocked Shots, 15:56 ATOI

N/A: Mike Matheson