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The third quarter of the season saw the Habs struggle in the win column.  However, several forwards, including the top line, had strong individual performances, helping them earn high grades.

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

Nick Suzuki: Player Rating: 10/10

Suzuki had the best quarter season of his career and is finally playing up to his $7.8M contract and his position as a first-line centre. After years of continuous improvement, he seemed to take a sideways step in Q1 and was not as engaged on a nightly basis. But things started to pick up in Q2 and finally, in Q3, Suzuki broke through. Not only did he put up over a point per game but did so with a 55% Corsi rating, was near even in terms of plus/minus, and did this all while playing against top competition on an otherwise bottom-dwelling team. Management must be thrilled to see a player having this type of success. Congrats Nick!

Stats: 20 GP, 12 goals, 13 assists, 25 points, -4 rating, 10 PIMS, 50 shots, 21:27 ATOI

Juraj Slafkovsky: Player Rating: 9/10

The most improved player on the team by far! Slafkovsky played most of the quarter with Suzuki and Caufield and had tremendous success. Fans have seen him literally become another player who dominates at times with this size, fire off deadly one-timers from his off-wing, and make some creative plays to set up teammates. While he’s still making costly mistakes at times and taking too many poor penalties, the effort and offensive results have come. The coaching staff finally put Slafkovsky in a position to have success – playing with good linemates and getting quality ice time – and he’s responded better than could be expected. In the first quarter, he was still playing on the third or fourth line and only around 12 minutes a game. It’s amazing what can happen when you show confidence in a player. A remarkable quarter for Slafkovsky and hopefully a lesson learned for Habs management.

Stats: 20 GP, 9 goals, 7 assists, 16 points, -9 rating, 14 PIMS, 48 shots, 19:25 ATOI

Cole Caufield: Player Rating: 8/10

It’s tough to rate Caufield. He was a point-per-game player – so this article should be raving about this type of performance. The struggle is knowing how much of this is due to riding shotgun with Suzuki and how much is Caufield contributing? At the third-quarter mark, he was on pace for 66 points (career high) but only 25 goals (one less than last year in which he only played 46 games). His 8.1% shooting percentage isn’t terrible but well below his career average of roughly 12%. And while he’s got lots of shot attempts (430) too many miss the net (95) or are blocked (99). So, he’s got some work to do to improve on that aspect. But he was consistent in the quarter scoring points in all but five games. A big improvement from previous quarters. In terms of experience, Caufield is only in his second season and still learning the game so from this perspective it’s a pretty darn good result.

Stats: 20 GP, 8 goal, 12 assists, 20 points, 0 rating, 4 PIMS, 83 shots, 19:41 ATOI

Sean Monahan:  Player Rating: 8/10

Monahan was playing some great hockey prior to his trade. Since the move, the Habs have struggled with their longest losing streak of the season after being 20-21-6 before it. Since the trade, Monahan has collected 15 points in 20 games for Winnipeg. Clearly, Montreal is missing his presence and should be a bright, flashing neon sign to management where the biggest gap is in Montreal’s lineup.

Stats: 8 GP, 2 goals, 9 assists, 11 points, -3 rating, 0 PIMS, 20 shots, 18:55 ATOI

Joel Armia: Player Rating: 7/10

Armia quietly had a very impressive quarter putting up half a point per game while largely playing third-line minutes and penalty kill. This is the version of Armia that was signed for the $3.4M contract and one that management should be happy to have on the team. The other version of Armia that we’ve seen for the last couple of years… well we’d all prefer not to see him again. He’s playing four more minutes per game than at the beginning of the season so the coaching staff has taken notice as well. Perhaps this is contributing to his level of engagement in games. For whatever reason, Armia is playing good hockey and the Habs need that to continue.

Stats: 20 GP, 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points, 0 rating, 10 PIMS, 50 shots, 16:14 ATOI

Alex Newhook: Player Rating: 6/10

Newhook had only played in 24 games before being injured so he is still getting to know his new team and teammates. Add to that the difficulty in coming back midseason from extensive time off and it’s no surprise he started off pointless in four of his first five games back. But since then, his timing and pace are coming back and he put up five points in his next games while showing off the tremendous speed that creates space for himself and his linemates.

Stats: 11 GP, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points, -2 rating, 0 PIMS, 22 shots, 17:30 ATOI

Joshua Roy: Player Rating: 5/10

Called up due to injuries, Roy is getting his first taste of NHL action and was looking good before being injured the other night. The effort is clearly there as are some pretty smart plays by the young winger. While there are plenty of rookie mistakes and giveaways, he’s also creating scoring chances and forcing opposition turnovers. It is early in his career, but he doesn’t look out of place and seems to play equally well with any linemates. This can be quite an advantage for a player as chemistry between linemates can be challenging to predict.

Stats: 16 GP, 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, -2 rating, 0 PIMS, 23 shots, 11:56 ATOI

Michael Pezzetta: Player Rating: 5/10

Pezzetta continues to provide the energy and intensity that can often be lacking by the rest of the Habs. He ended this segment 15th overall in hits in the NHL despite only playing in 44 games and is chipping in offensively on occasion which is pretty much what can be expected.

Stats: 14 GP, 2 goals, 0 assists, 2 points, -1 rating, 11 PIMS, 6 shots, 7:34 ATOI

Jake Evans: Player Rating: 4/10

Left with only Suzuki and Evans as centres, management thrust a huge load onto Evans and it has exposed his ceiling. Playing in bottom-six roles, Evans was always a responsible player, even in plus/minus, and relatively good in Corsi rating (43%) considering his primarily defensive role and starting most of his shifts in the defensive zone. Being thrust into a higher role playing against tougher competition, his Corsi rating dropped to 36% and he was a clear negative in the plus/minus column. Evans simply doesn’t have the offensive upside to be playing higher up in the lineup. This is not a knock against him, as he’s a versatile and productive player – when he plays in a proper role.

Stats: 20 GP, 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points, -7 rating, 12 PIMS, 29 shots, 16:50 ATOI

Brendan Gallagher:  Player Rating: 3/10

Gallagher needs better linemates – especially a smart centre who can pressure the opposition. Far too often Gallagher is a one-man forechecking machine, but without any support, the other team easily breaks out with no damage done. Gallagher had a lot of success in Q1 this season playing with Monahan and was on pace for 20 goals and 36 points with a Corsi rating of around 56%. That production rapidly evaporated and his Corsi rating plummeted to 44% in the most recent quarter. While Gallagher doesn’t have the same speed, he still has a great shot and his game is remarkably consistent to the years he was scoring 30-plus goals (2017-2020) and had Corsi ratings in the mid-60s. Without linemate chemistry, Gallagher just simply can’t produce the same and has seen his playing time, shot volume, and takeaways all drop considerably. It’s clear Gallagher is struggling but it’s not due to effort on his part. The solution to this one is in management’s hands and that’s to get him better linemates.

Stats: 15 GP, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, -4 rating, 25 PIMS, 22 shots, 12:57 ATOI

Josh Anderson: Player Rating: 2/10

The hope was that once Anderson broke out of his early-season slump, he would have returned to normal (or better) for the rest of the year. That simply hasn’t happened. While he has had some chances, he hasn’t come close to taking advantage of enough of them. And the chances are far fewer than fans normally see from Anderson. It’s hard to pinpoint which part of his game is struggling because nothing seems to be going well for him right now.

Stats: 16 GP, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, -6 rating, 13 PIMS, 19 shots, 14:34 ATOI

Rafael Harvey-Pinard: Player Rating: 2/10

Coming back from injury (and really all season), Harvey-Pinard has had a tough time making any impact. He spent a bit of time at centre (an unfamiliar position) with other struggling forwards as linemates. At this point, the only thing keeping him in the lineup is the lack of other options for the Habs.

Stats: 10 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, -1 rating, 4 PIMS, 7 shots, 13:13 ATOI

Tanner Pearson: Player Rating: 1/10

After coming back from injury Pearson has picked up right where he left off – providing limited to no value and having no impact in games. For a fourth-line player that is supposed to provide energy and grind down the opposing defencemen, he had just 44 hits in his first 44 games. Compare that to Pezzetta who in the same number of games (and fewer minutes) had 177 hits. And despite his limited games and playing time, Pearson ranks sixth amongst Habs forwards for giveaways. It’s no surprise with a $3.25M salary cap hit Montreal management was unable to trade Pearson who is on an expiring contract. One might wonder why Hughes acquired him in the first place – but that’s for another time.

Stats: 15 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, -6 rating, 8 PIMS, 18 shots, 12:51 ATOI

Jesse Ylonen: Player Rating: 1/10

The only player with less playing time than Ylonen is Pezzetta. The coaching staff clearly doesn’t trust or like what they see with him playing the young developing asset just over nine minutes a game in very sheltered minutes. For the most part, Ylonen hasn’t given them a reason to play him more though as he’s largely invisible in games. But there are moments where you see his skill and speed shine through. Still, it’s confusing for a rebuilding team to not give better opportunities to someone like Ylonen. It’s not as if there are a plethora of forwards above him having great seasons. Why not deploy him on the second line for 10 games and 16-18 minutes of playing time and see how he does?

Stats: 15 GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, +2 rating, 0 PIMS, 9 shots, 9:11 ATOI