Greetings Habs Addicts!
What a season it has been so far!
The Canadiens cannot seem to score consistently – unless you count Max Pacioretty and his 37 goals. They are also riding one of the greatest statistical seasons by a goaltender in the modern era with what Carey Price is doing. And of course, P.K. Subban could be working his way back into the Norris Trophy conversation with the numbers he has this year (15 goals/57 points). But aside from those three, the supporting cast has been extremely underwhelming offensively this season. Underwhelming enough to wonder just how strong the Canadiens will be entering the playoffs.
The three superstars have had some help. Tomas Plekanec is having another consistent two-way season. The turtle-necked wonder is one of the steadiest performers the Canadiens have had in the last decade and one of the NHL’s more under-rated defensive forwards. A nod for the Selke might be in store; however, the competition is always tough with names like Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Pavel Datsyuk always carrying larger profiles year in, year out. But with 22 goals, 54 points and a +9 on the year, Plekanec is quietly doing his part.
Brendan Gallagher finally hit the 20-goal mark this year, sitting at 23 goals on the year. He has been a consistent spark plug in the line-up, always going to the dirty areas and getting the job done. Offensively, he has not quite reached his peak. However, expecting more than a 25 goal/60 point ceiling is wishful thinking. Defensively responsible at even-strength, Gallagher is a +20 on the year and only has three power-play goals to his name. In large part due to the ineffectiveness of the relentless “Set up Subban for the one-timer at the point” strategy that Michel Therrien refuses to waver from.
Alex Galchenyuk has taken another step forward in his development. Finally reaching the 20 goal mark, Chucky has 25 assists to go with those goals and spent a brief period of time playing centre on the top line with Pacioretty. Aside from scoring a hat-trick, his time there albeit brief, gave fans a glimpse of the future. Another step forward next year will lead to the big breakout fans are expecting from the former 3rd overall draft pick.
On the blue line, Andrei Markov continues to defy the ageing process. The General continues to provide steady veteran leadership on the blue line and has paired up very well with P.K. Subban. Markov has 9 goals and 46 points, with 23 as the quarterback on the power-play. Markov faded a bit down the stretch last year, however has continued to be a solid contributor as the Canadiens enter the final five games of the regular season.
While these four players have contributed what we expect from them, other veterans have disappointed. These are the players who will need to truly elevate their game come the playoffs if the Canadiens expect to make another run towards the Stanley Cup. There is no Thomas Vanek in the line-up this year to take away the number one pairings on the other teams. Teams will focus on shadowing Max Pacioretty and clogging the high slot to keep Subban from shooting come playoff time. Focus on shutting down those two players will be the game plan.
And then what do we do?
David Desharnais has been incredibly inconsistent this year. After struggling out of the gate again, Therrien removed the tether from Patches and Little Davey was sent to the wing on the third line. And he responded. Desharnais started shooting more, putting the puck in the net and found his game. So naturally, he was moved right back to Pacioretty’s side and has since stagnated again offensively. While his 13-goals/46 points in 78 games is respectable, they are mediocre when your title is ‘Top Line Centre’.
P.A. Parenteau was brought in from Colorado to provide some scoring punch. After a down year last year in Colorado, fans were expecting him to pair up nicely with Pacioretty and return to the numbers he put up during his time on Long Island playing with John Tavares. Heck, even the numbers he put up during his first year in Colorado would have been sufficient. Instead, Parenteau is suffering through his worst offensive season in the NHL. He battled an injury and missed significant time and has not found his rhythm in Montreal. 7-goals and 20 points in 52 games is not what the Canadiens had in mind when they dealt for PAP. To his credit, he has found some consistency lately and is primed to break out come playoffs. The luck has to change, as his shooting percentage is a paltry 7.9%.
Marc Bergevin made his moves at the trade deadline. He added roster depth from the Buffalo Sabres in Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn. He added puck moving defenseman Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers and traded touted KHL signing Jiri Sekac to the Anaheim Ducks for the bowling ball on skates that is Devante Smith-Pelly. While fans were up in arms about trading Sekac, he did not fit the system in Montreal and Bergevin realized it early on. DSP has talent and should break out next season with a full off-season to get comfortable. And in shape. Sekac has talent, but lets not forget how some other highly touted undrafted players turned out. Fabian Brunnstrom anyone? Damien Brunner?
The usual suspects are doing their job. They will need some help. Last year we saw Lars Eller and Dale Weise step up in the playoffs. Can they do it again? Will P.A. Parenteau be that person this year?
The lengthy playoff run rests on the answer to those questions.
Carey Price cannot do it all himself.