The Habs didn’t have a lot of on-ice success as a team over the final six weeks of the season but a few players were still able to finish strong. Here’s our final set of reader-voted three stars of the season, covering March and April.
1st Star: Mike Matheson – This season had several starts and stops for Matheson but he was finally healthy for an extended period down the stretch. Boy, what an impression he made. It wasn’t that long ago that he was struggling even in limited minutes – just go back to how things ended for him in Florida and how they started in Pittsburgh. But he finished up the year anchoring the top pairing and playing all the minutes he could handle. The end result? He thrived for the most part. If you’re looking for reasons for optimism for next season, Matheson is one of them as, for the time being at least, they have half of their top pairing locked in.
Stats: 22 GP, 4-14-18, +1 rating, 10 PIMS, 65 shots, 45 blocks, 25:28 ATOI
2nd Star: Nick Suzuki – The captain led the team in scoring over the final stretch of the season. That on its own might not sound overly impressive but it’s worth remembering that he didn’t have Cole Caufield with him. Instead, he often had someone brought up from the minors and a rotation of players on the other wing. Of course, the common refrain about not reading too much into how a player performs when there’s nothing to play for has to be said but if Suzuki is able to consistently pick up points without his top running mate, it would be a big step forward as he looks to assert himself as a legitimate top middleman.
Stats: 22 GP, 6-13-19, +1 rating, 17 PIMS, 42 shots, 45.9% faceoffs, 20:46 ATOI
3rd Star: Rafael Harvey-Pinard – Is the rate that he produced at down the stretch sustainable? Not really, a 19.4% shooting percentage is next to impossible to keep up. But how Harvey-Pinard scored his goals is definitely sustainable, getting in tight to the net, deflecting shots, and going for rebounds. Frankly, it’s an element that this roster doesn’t have a whole lot of which only further bolsters his case of a full-time roster spot for next season. He got a prime opportunity with the long list of injuries and he certainly made it count.
Stats: 18 GP, 7-2-9, even rating, 4 PIMS, 36 shots, 29 blocks, 18:21 ATOI
Honourable Mention: Alex Belzile – Speaking of making his opportunity count, the same can be said for Belzile. He was among Montreal’s top goal-getters for the month even after missing the final couple of weeks with a foot injury. Has he played his way into consideration for a full-time spot next season, either with Montreal or another NHL team? I’m not sure. But has he shown that he’s capable of helping a team when he is in the lineup? Yes, he has. That’s bound to generate some interest in the open market, likely in the form of a richer two-way contract and for someone in Belzile’s situation, that’s still a pretty good achievement.
Stats: 17 GP, 5-3-8, even rating, 8 PIMS, 22 shots, 50.9% faceoffs, 12:31 ATOI