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It was a difficult third quarter for the Canadiens this season, but there were some highlights from some defencemen and goaltenders.

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


Cayden Primeau: Player Rating: 7/10

Primeau continued his rotation as the backup goalie with Jake Allen and again outperformed him in the third quarter. After watching Primeau get starts this season, it’s easier to see why Montreal kept him on the pro squad. It’s highly likely another NHL team would have claimed him on waivers if the Habs tried to send him down in what would have been a similar situation to when Montreal obtained Montembeault on waivers from Florida back in 2021. Cayden managed to earn a shutout against Anaheim on February 13th, which was his easiest game of the quarter.

Stats: 5 GP, 1-2-1 record, 2.84 GAA, .891 SV%

Samuel Montembeault: Player Rating: 6.5/10

Sam continued to play as Montreal’s first stringer this quarter. Other than a couple of lacklustre games against the Bruins and Rangers, Montembeault played consistently giving his team a chance in most games. During the Habs’ five-game losing streak in February, Samuel played well in a win over Arizona to break that team slump. He continues to be a good goalie that handles the pressure of playing in Montreal.

Stats: 10 GP, 4-4-2 record, 3.54 GAA, .900 SV%

Jake Allen: Player Rating: 4/10

I really did not think Jake would play worse than he had last quarter, since it was widely rumoured that he could be traded to a contender. Well, he did play worse, in terms of both his goals against and save percentage. After the trade to New Jersey was completed, the rumours about the Devils’ interest in Jake back earlier this season arose. Allen had New Jersey listed on his no-trade list which may have squashed the trade from happening then but the Devils eventually talked him into it on deadline day to facilitate the move.

Stats: 6 GP, 1-4-1 record, 4.05 GAA, .873 SV%


Mike Matheson: Player Rating: 8/10

Matheson continues to be the team’s go-to guy on defence, leading his team in points and time on ice by a big margin in both categories. Mike’s defensive game is still under scrutiny since he sometimes coughs up the puck in the defensive zone under forechecking pressure, and that has led to goals against. He plays a better defensive game in the neutral zone and at the blueline, so it’s puzzling why it appears his panic level deep in his own zone is so high. Mike played in all special team situations during the first wave most time. I understand why he’s given that responsibility on the power play since he’s a good puck handler, but I believe he should not be given any or little penalty killing time. His ice time is already too high, and removing him from the penalty killing unit (which has been one of the bottom five in the NHL this season) will help Matheson stay sharp in even-strength situations. Matheson scored a memorable goal against Pittsburgh on February 22nd, when he intercepted a pass up the middle to score the team’s first goal.

Stats: 20 GP, 2 G, 12 A, 14 Pts, -15, 20 PIM, 1 PPG, 46 Shots, 15 Hits, 45 Blocked Shots, 26:07 ATOI

Arber Xhekaj: Player Rating: 7.5/10

Xhekaj earned a call-up from the AHL on January 22nd, after a stint of over six weeks on the farm team. Arber continued to play a physical style with Montreal, but he has somewhat cut back on needless penalties. His improved discipline is needed, considering the team’s dismal penalty killing record. Although he was a healthy scratch a few times due to the team’s overabundance of defencemen, Arber has shown improved offensive skills. His five points this quarter ranked him second behind Matheson, despite not playing all games this quarter. Xhekaj scored in back-to-back games against Washington and Buffalo. The goal against Buffalo was perhaps his most memorable. He pinched in from the point to reach the top of the faceoff circle to receive a broken pass from Joshua Roy. His slap shot was not the hardest one I have witnessed, but his accuracy was excellent, placing it on the short side just inside the post.

Stats: 13 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 Pts, +1, 21 Shots, 29 Hits, 20 Blocked Shots, 16:24 ATOI

Kaiden Guhle: Player Rating: 7/10

Guhle continues to develop and get more responsibilities. His ice time was ahead of veteran David Savard for the first stretch of games when both players were in the lineup. During this quarter, Kaiden started to get ice time on the right side but he is a left-handed shot. Despite this shift, Guhle played well and did not show any obvious handicap playing out of his off position. One memorable play of Kaiden was during the February 10th game against Anaheim, when he was carrying the puck on a two-on-one, but decided to pass to Brandon Gignac who scored. That selfless play was notable since Kaiden must have known Gignac had not yet scored in the NHL.

Stats: 20 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts, -9, 23 Shots, 33 Hits, 38 Blocked Shots, 21:57 ATOI

Jayden Struble: Player Rating: 7/10

Struble missed four games this quarter to a lower-body injury; it was rumoured that it was a groin injury. If accurate, then that may tie to a groin injury Jayden suffered during his college hockey days. Jayden was again a very consistent player who made few mistakes. His dependability makes it difficult to take him out of the lineup. At least with Montreal’s extra defencemen on the roster, Montreal could take their time with deciding to bring injured players like Struble and Harris back into the lineup. It’s easy to say Jayden’s special moment of this quarter was a goal on February 21st against Buffalo. It was a strong wrist shot near the point, that took a fortunate deflection off of a Sabre to make it into the net.

Stats: 16 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts, +1, 32 PIM, 15 Shots, 26 Hits, 11 Blocked Shots, 17:14 ATOI

David Savard: Player Rating: 6.5/10

Savard’s name had been in trade rumours for quite some time, and a few teams did make some inquiries before the trade deadline. That off-ice pressure could have had an impact on his play. David made it public during an interview that his decision to sign with Montreal in 2021 was partly driven by a desire to raise his children in a French-speaking community. Despite that noise, Savard played pretty well this quarter, producing offence at the same rate as the last quarter. David’s most memorable game was the shutout game against Anaheim, where he made several strong defensive plays; two of them led to turnovers when the Canadiens scored on the next offensive push against the Ducks.

Stats: 20 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 Pts, -5, 14 Shots, 26 Hits, 48 Blocked Shots, 20:06 ATOI

Jordan Harris: Player Rating: 6.5/10

The young defender returned to the lineup on February 20, after missing three games to an upper-body injury. To me, it looked like a concussion since Harris was visibly wobbly after receiving a big hit against the boards. Jordan has been moved in and out of the lineup but picked up his offensive game this quarter. His most significant game in this stretch was February 27 against Arizona, as he scored two points. One of those points was a well-placed wrist shot on the stick side during a two-on-one to score. What was also impressive was the fact Harris blocked a shot in the defensive zone and then skated the puck out to start the drive leading to his goal.

Stats: 13 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts, +5, 4 PIM, 9 Shots, 8 Hits, 12 Blocked Shots, 15:14 ATOI

Johnathan Kovacevic: Player Rating: 6/10

Kovacevic appears to be at the bottom of the depth chart, as he missed more games as a healthy scratch than any other blueliner. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of his play this quarter. To compare him to other young defenders, he is not as mobile as Jordan Harris or Jayden Struble. He does not typically produce offence but his size and defensive skills are still valuable. His most memorable moment this quarter was a goal against Ottawa on January 23rd when his well-placed wrist shot from the point made it through a number of players to hit the back of the net.

Stats: 15 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 Pts, +3, 20 PIM, 8 Shots, 18 Hits, 19 Blocked Shots, 13:07 ATOI

Third Quarter Grades: Forwards