As the midpoint of the season has recently past, it’s time for a review of the Canadiens’ goaltenders and defencemen during the second quarter of this season.
The announcement of a three-year contract extension on December 1st must have put Montembeaul’s mind at ease. There’s no doubt he would like to continue playing in his home province, and he’s earned the trust of the coaches and management now. I believe he’s playing with more confidence now. While Samuel’s goals-against average rose, his save percentage was nearly the same, and he managed one more win.
Stats: 10 GP, 5-3-2 record, 3.06 GAA, .905 SV%
During this stretch of games Primeau played, he showed me he may end up being a capable NHL goaltender. He had a couple of strong games against Buffalo and Philadelphia where he was outshot but gave his team a chance to win. Cayden also had a strong game against Chicago and actually had his first back-to-back games as a starter in the NHL. Primeau’s management to improve his goals against average and save percentage this quarter. With performances like that, it will make it harder for Montreal’s management to trade him out of town.
Stats: 5 GP, 2-1-1 record, 2.91 GAA, .910 SV%
It’s easy to say Jake did not play well in this quarter. He was simply the weakest of the three Habs goaltenders in terms of his goals against, save percentage, and win-loss record. The trade rumours may be getting to him, although playing better would increase his chances of being dealt out of Montreal. He still allows some soft goals, which don’t make up for the few good saves he does make. I hope he will be dealt before this year’s trade deadline
Stats: 5 GP, 1-3-1 record, 3.41 GAA, .893 SV%
Mike’s game has been more up than down this quarter. He’s still a very fine point-producing blueliner, and he’s very willing to carry the puck or head-man it to start the team’s offensive drive. He plays the most ice time and is called on for both power play and penalty killing duties. Sometimes he makes defensive mistakes that remind me of P.K. Subban. By that I mean he tries to do too much at a given moment when making the simple play would have been prudent. That extra level of risk has a trade-off to his game. At this point in the season, he is very close to matching his career-best season in points, which was done last season with 34 points in only 48 games. Barring an injury, he will break his own points record easily this season. There are times that I would rather see some of his ice time distributed to the younger defencemen on the team. It appears that the coaching staff would rather protect those defencemen and give all the top responsibilities to Matheson. I believe he would reduce the number of defensive mistakes if he were given somewhat less ice time.
Stats: 20 GP, 1 G, 13 A, 14 Pts, +1 Rating, 16 PIM, 46 Shots, 9 Hits, 37 Blocked Shots, 25:24 ATOI
Struble was a surprise call-up during a West Coast road trip when his buddy Jordan Harris went down with an injury. Since he’s gone into the lineup, he’s played so well that the coaches have not been able to take him out. The first surprising thing about Struble is his consistency. He plays like a seasoned veteran, making very few mistakes, and has a low panic threshold when he handles the puck. The next surprise to me about Jayden is his offensive play. He’s shown a willingness to jump into the play and it’s helped produce some points. That is impressive for a defender who previously was not known to have much offensive talent, nor produce a lot of offensive numbers in the AHL and college. Although Struble is not a big defenceman, his strength helps him battle with larger forwards and fair well. He also led his defensive squad in hits.
Stats: 20 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 Pts, +0 Rating, 7 PIM, 17 Shots, 38 Hits, 25 Blocked Shots, 15:20 ATOI
Savard really produced offensively during the second quarter, showing that he has fully recovered from his fractured hand suffered last quarter. He led the team’s defenceman in goal scoring with four during this span of games. He still tends to be overused in the top pairing, especially in short-handed situations against the opponents’ top power play. It wasn’t until near the end of the second quarter before the coaches also realized this, and split up the Savard-Matheson pairing. However, on offence, Savard’s four goals were second on the team in even-strength ice time, second only to Josh Anderson. While that stat is commendable for David, it’s a little discouraging towards the rest of the Habs forwards this quarter.
Stats: 14 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 8 Pts, -3 Rating, 10 PIM, 20 Shots, 14 Hits, 47 Blocked Shots, 21:19 ATOI
I was not a fan of Harris due to his play in the first quarter. His game seemed to suffer and I thought he was digressing overall compared to last season. After his return in late December from an injury, he surprised me by playing very well in his first few games, He flashed offensive chances right away and did not show any rust to his game despite missing fifteen games with a lower-body injury. I enjoyed watching him play with Jayden Struble. Both played on the same college team, and I’m sure they spent a fair amount of time together on the ice back then. Although both Harris and Struble shoot left, Jordan plays the right side pretty well when they are together.
Stats: 8 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 Pts, +1 Rating, 4 PIM, 8 Shots, 1 Hits, 10 Blocked Shots, 16:03 ATOI
This past quarter, Kaiden took a bit of a step back in both his offence and defence. His offensive stats were almost half of the previous set of games while playing in four more matches. Defensively, he also underperformed. While he was juggled around between the first, second, and third pairings all quarter, it’s possible he did not find natural chemistry with anyone so far. He did lead his team in blocked shots and was second in hits among his fellow defencemen. To me, he looks a little less confident at times. But like all of the Habs young defenders, he is going to need around 150-200 games to adjust to the NHL and begin to show what they are capable as pros.
Stats: 20 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts, -6 Rating, 15 PIM, 26 Shots, 28 Hits, 60 Blocked Shots, 20:17 ATOI
There’s no denying Barron’s offensive talent. He’s got a really good shot and can skate well with the puck. He contributed the same number of points for this twenty-game span, but he makes more defensive gaffes than anyone else on the team. If he was not a right-shot defender, he may have been sent down to the farm team for more development time. I can’t help but wonder if he did not play defence very long during his minor league seasons, because he makes too many fundamental mistakes that usually get learned and corrected much earlier than now.
Stats: 20 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 Pts, -6 Rating, 2 PIM, Shots, Hits, Blocked Shots, 18:35 ATOI
The second quarter was not favourable to Kovacevic, although it was not his fault. He was a healthy scratch for five games, but that was more a reflection of the good play of Jayden Struble than any poor play of his own. Offensively he contributed one more point than last quarter while playing in fewer games. His ice time was also reduced, as he was typically in the third pairing when he was in the lineup. I feel Kovacevic is a strong defender with some offensive skills, and should be a regular in penalty killing situations, but the coaching staff think differently.
Stats: 15 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 Pts, +4 Rating, 8 PIM, 13 Shots, 13 Hits, 15 Blocked Shots, 15:16 ATOI
Much like Kovacevic, Lindstrom’s ice time was heavily impacted by the emergence of Jayden Struble and the return to the lineup of David Savard. Gustav did contribute two goals during his time with Montreal, including a game-tying goal against his former Red Wings squad. Unfortunately, his offensive presence was not enough to counter his bad decision-making on defence. After being a healthy scratch in twelve straight games, management decided to place him on waivers. The Anaheim Ducks took him, and his leaving the organization gives other prospects in the AHL level a chance at more ice time.
Stats: 6 GP, 2 G, 0 A, 2 Pts, +0 Rating, 4 PIM, 9 Shots, 5 Hits, 9 Blocked Shots, 16:45 ATOI