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With the Habs past their first quarter mark of this season recently, it’s time to grade the Canadiens players’ performances for the first quarter. The first quarter set of games ends with the November 25th match against Los Angeles.

Players must have played in at least five games to receive a grade.


Samuel Montembeault

Fan Vote Average: 7.13, Writer Vote Average: 7.57

Sam has not been a steady goalie for the Habs this season. In nine of his starts, he allowed three or more goals four times. However, he does not give up very many savable goals, which means he typically gives his team a chance to be competitive. Despite the sputtering team’s offence, Montembeault has led the team in wins this season and eventually earned a three-year extension just after the one-quarter mark.

Stats: 9 GP, 4-3-1 record, 2.81 GAA, .908 SV%

Jake Allen

Fan Vote Average: 6.19, Writer Vote Average: 6.14

Allen started the season pretty well but has faltered lately, losing his last five games. During that span, he has suffered with a 4.94 GAA and a .864 SV%. It’s possible that the trade rumours involving Allen have started to get through to him; however, poor play is more likely to keep him in Montreal than make him more attractive to another team to take on his contract. With Jake signed through to the end of the 2024-25 season, it would be a hard sell to move the 33-year-old veteran as it is. I still see Allen as a backup goalie, and he can sometimes make a flashy save. In nearly every game this season, he also lets in at least one very soft goal. While this is a rebuilding team that is not expected to make a run at a playoff position, it must be disheartening for the other players to see a substandard goalie give them less of a chance at winning, every time he starts.

Stats: 9 GP, 3-5-1 record, 3.59 GAA, .903 SV%

Cayden Primeau

Fan Vote Average: 6:06, Writer Vote Average: 6.00

Montreal is out of waiver exemptions with Primeau this season. Their options to start the season were either to send him to the minors and hope he clears waivers, or keep him in the NHL. The decision not to risk losing him for nothing has meant Cayden has seen little action so far this season. He had only one start in October and three in November, when the schedule started to get more compressed for the Habs. Two of the teams he faced were Stanley Cup contenders (New Jersey and Vegas) and both were losses. Despite the lack of playing time, it appears that Primeau has improved start over start. That’s a good sign that he will remain in Montreal, and one of the other veteran goaltenders will be moved to give him more playing time.

Stats: 4 GP, 2-2-0 record, 3.41 GAA, .898 SV%


Kaiden Guhle

Fan Vote Average: 7.84, Writer Vote Average: 8.29

Guhle started the year on the second pairing, but two incidents changed his situation. First, he was injured in game three, which led to him missing the next four games with an upper-body injury. Before he returned, David Savard was also lost to injury. After he returned, he was getting top-pairing minutes in most games and has played 20-plus minutes in all but five games of the first quarter. Guhle is a very good two-way defender, with good size, skating, and passing skills. His overtime game-winning goal against Boston showed insight into his offensive game. I believe he tries to keep his game mistake-free, which sometimes puts a damper on his taking chances offensively. He has top pairing potential as a long-term fixture on this team. Like most of the Habs young defenders, he needs more time to groom his game. The fact that he missed 38 games last season has slowed his development somewhat.

Stats: 17 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 Pts, +5 Rating, 16 PIM, 28 Shots, 23 Hits, 29 Blocked Shots, 20:56 ATOI

Mike Matheson

Fan Vote Average: 6.94, Writer Vote Average: 7.29

Matheson started this season healthy, and that’s helped him seize the number one role on this squad. Last season, Mike suffered several injuries that kept him out of the lineup for nearly half the year. He has good offensive skills and will take chances to generate a scoring chance. His defensive game is also good, although he has been victimized by opponents more than a few times. Montreal’s coaches rely on him too much at times, and I am concerned his constant high ice time will wear him out and/or make him susceptible to an injury this season. However, it’s possible his ice time is due to the team not wanting to give too much responsibility to the rest of the young defencemen before they have gained more experience.

Stats: 21 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15 Pts, -10 Rating, 16 PIM, 57 Shots, 13 Hits, 44 Blocked Shots, 24:50 ATOI

Justin Barron

Fan Vote Average: 6.81, Writer Vote Average: 7.00

Barron had a disappointing exhibition season, and with the high number of bodies on the blueline, he started the season as a healthy scratch for the first three games. After that, he got into the lineup and produced three goals in his first five games. His offensive skill is his calling card, and he will benefit from more experience at the NHL level; he has only played 64 games so far. Most young players complete their development around the 200-game mark, so we may need more than this full season to see exactly what Barron will become. He could potentially graduate as a top pairing right defenceman alongside Matheson. In many games, he has looked very good when partnered with Kaiden Guhle. His defensive game has improved a great deal this season, and the head coach has been seen giving Justin extra attention to help him better develop that part of his game.

Stats: 18 GP, 4 G, 2 A, 6 Pts, +2 Rating, 14 PIM, 16 Shots, 23 Hits, 29 Blocked Shots, 19:44 ATOI

Johnathan Kovacevic

Fan Vote Average: 6.29, Writer Vote Average: 7.00

Kovacevic has taken on a much bigger role in the first quarter in part due to injuries to other bigger defencemen like Arber Xhekaj and David Savard. To start the season, he was focusing strictly on his defensive game. Partway through the quarter, I noticed Kovacevic jumping into the play at least once every game. I believe Johnathan has been following his coach’s teachings to try to improve parts of his game that he did not do last season. That effort has really paid off during the last five games of this stretch where he scored three goals.

Stats: 21 GP, 3 G, 0 A, 3 Pts, +2 Rating, 10 PIM, 15 Shots, 16 Hits, 35 Blocked Shots, 18:34 ATOI

David Savard

Fan Vote Average: 5.97, Writer Vote Average: 5.86

Savard missed most of the quarter due to a broken hand, suffered during a mid-October game in Buffalo. While killing a penalty, Savard lost one of his skate blades but still tried to stay in the play by literally sacrificing his body to block shots. His competitiveness cannot be denied, as his play was very gutsy. I am not a fan of the coaching staff giving Savard top-pairing ice time for the first five games, mainly with veteran Matheson. In my opinion, David would be better suited in a bottom pair role, because he can be exploited against top forwards due to his lack of mobility and slow decision-making. However, he is effective as a penalty killer, where his size can be used to play physically against forwards in front of the net.

Stats: 5 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 Pts, +0 Rating, 2 PIM, 4 Shots, 4 Hits, 14 Blocked Shots, 20:22 ATOI

Arber Xhekaj

Fan Vote Average: 5.87, Writer Vote Average: 6.57

‘The Sheriff’ had offseason shoulder surgery which caused him to miss 31 games last season. In his first game against Toronto, he was physically tested and responded with 17 minutes in the penalty box. When he is on the ice, he loves to dish big checks to the opposition. He could pick his spots a little better to ensure those hits do not put him out of position for an opponent’s offensive chance. Earlier, there were a few games when Arber was given power play time, which was something he did very little last season. Xhekaj has a good shot from the point with accuracy, that often gives his teammates a chance at a rebound. His offensive game is still a work in progress.

Stats: 17 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts, +1 Rating, 47 PIM, 14 Shots, 41 Hits, 12 Blocked Shots, 14:44 ATOI

Jordan Harris

Fan Vote Average: 5.52, Writer Vote Average: 4.86

Harris seems to be suffering from the dreaded sophomore slump to start this season. Although he still shows off his excellent skating, his decision-making with the puck still needs more time to develop. His biggest weakness is his size and larger opponents easily manhandle him in the defensive end, winning many puck battles. With the glut of defencemen on this team when the squad is healthy, Jordan’s below-average play is dropping him down the depth chart. After missing two games with a lower-body injury, he returned to play in his home state of Massachusetts against the Boston. Unfortunately, he was injured again, but this time it was an upper-body injury; he has not returned to the lineup so far.

Stats: 16 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 Pts, -7 Rating, 8 PIM, 12 Shots, 5 Hits, 28 Blocked Shots, 16:16 ATOI

Gustav Lindstrom

Fan Vote Average: 4.65, Writer Vote Average: 5.00

Lindstrom was a surprise pickup during the Jeff Petry trade with Detroit since he’s a young right-shot defenceman. Typically, most NHL teams do not give up on those types of assets. But Gustav had a dreadful exhibition season, and it was an easy decision to send him to the AHL, even though he had to clear waivers. Injuries to a few Habs defencemen gave him the opportunity for a call-up, and he has made the most of it. Like several others on this squad, Lindstrom is a bottom-pairing defenceman with decent size and some offensive skills. He has played over 130 games in the NHL now and should be closer to reaching his full potential. As a right-handed blueliner, he gives this squad good depth.

Stats: 8 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 Pts, +0 Rating, 2 PIM, Shots, Hits, Blocked Shots, 14:10 ATOI