By JD Lagrange – I meant to do this yesterday, prior to the game against the Nashville Predators, but something came up. So we’ll do a 42-games mid-season report, instead of the true halfway at 41 games. As we know, the Canadiens defeated the Preds 4-3 on a two-goals performance by Cole Caufield and three assists by Jonathan Drouin.
We will have a quick summary analysis of the team, the coaches and then, the players individually. Let’s see if you agree. First, let’s look at the team’s performance. I will spare you the plus and minuses after the letters, you can put your own if you want.
Record: C 17-22-3 for 37 points (.440 points percentage). That places them 27th in the NHL. While many will claim that it’s where they should be, they were on a much better pace before December so to me, it’s a bit of a disappointment.
Goals for: D 2.60 per game, placing them 29th in the NHL. Considering how hot Suzuki, Caufield and even Dach and Anderson have produced, that’s very disappointing. St-Louis preaches a style which is supposed to allow for offensive creativity. We’re not seeing enough from three of the four lines.
Goals against: D 3.79 goals against per game. Only Anaheim, Columbus and Vancouver allow more goals per game than the Canadiens. Admittedly, starting with 4-5 rookies at the blue line and no true starting goaltender doesn’t help but the forwards lack of commitment to defense shows too often.
Power play: D 16.0% on the season, 30th overall in the NHL. That simply won’t cut it. People can blame Alex Burrows all they want, every single coach has his fingers on the PP and should, along with the players, share the blame for that one.
Penalty kill: D 74.5% success rate, 23rd in the NHL. It started ice cold, warmed up a bit, and it’s now pathetic again. You can only teach so much about offensive skills and goals’ scoring, but one should be able to teach defense and systems, particularly on the PK.
Coaching staff: C Because of the special teams, and the defensive laps overall, this is not enough from the coaching staff. The Canadiens are also one of the NHL’s most penalized teams in the league. Perhaps an experienced coaching consultant and mentor is needed to better support St-Louis and his crew?
Management: C Going into the season with four rookie defensemen is insane. Not addressing the situation when Edmundson was out, then Matheson and Savard went out, and starting five rookies on the blue line doesn’t serve the team, the goalies or the young players’ confidence either. They would learn faster and better with a veteran on their side, on their pairing. Also, there’s way too much dead wood veterans who are passengers. I will add the decision to keep Slafkovsky instead of sending him to the World Juniors as mistakes by Hughes and his group, and now keeping him up in Montreal.
Cole Caufield: One of the Canadiens’ most consistent forwards, he’s on pace for 49 goals. Kept relatively hot even when Suzuki went through a long cold steak.
Kaiden Guhle: Playing top-pairing minutes against the opponents’ top lines, no one expected that in Guhle’s rookie season. He plays just under 21 minutes a game and leads all Canadiens defensemen in points.
Nick Suzuki: He was the Canadiens’ best player for a while but since December, he’s been ice cold, dropping him to a “B”. It has been announced that he will once again represent the team at the NHL All-Star game.
Josh Anderson: It would be nice to see a few more assists but he has been a lot more consistent than in previous years, and he is now killing penalties. He is well on his way to another 20+ goals season.
Sean Monahan: A very pleasant surprise, he has been a great addition to the team and others have suffered greatly since his injury.
Kirby Dach: We knew that he was talented, but he’s also very physical and has provided a spark on the top line RW and brings versatility, also playing center and being responsible defensively. He has already tied his career-high in points.
David Savard: Playing in a chair that’s not his, he has performed amazingly well so far this season and when he missed time due to injury, the Canadiens’ defense was all over the place.
Jordan Harris: He has had his ups and downs, and while he would benefit from some time in Laval, circumstances are that he’s needed in Montreal.
Arber Xhekaj: With Guhle, the biggest surprise on the team this season. Physical force, he also leads all Canadiens’ defensemen this season.
Christian Dvorak: He’s been playing better lately, but his production is sub-par so far.
Mike Hoffman: After a slow start, he went through a hot streak and he’s now a healthy scratch again.
Juraj Slafkovsky: About what we could expect from the young Slovak. He would have benefited from going to the World Juniors and a stint in Laval would also be beneficial for his confidence.
Brendan Gallagher: He has been playing very well in spite of his lack of offensive production. Then, he got hurt and you could tell that he didn’t have the same jump in his step before being sidelined.
Jonathan Drouin: Arguably the most picked on player by fans, they pick on every little mistake he makes. But he’s been okay, not great. Much better lately though, centring the fourth line.
Joel Edmundson: After missing training camp, it’s been difficult for the big man to catch up to his teammates but he has been playing much better as of late as well.
Mike Matheson: It’s rather hard to properly evaluate Matheson as he’s only played 10 of the team’s 42 games so far.
Johnathan Kovacevic: One of the team’s four rookies a the blue line, he’s been doing okay for a guy picked off waivers. His ceiling might be a 6-7th defenseman however.
Jake Allen: Some expected more from Allen but those people seem to forget that in his career, he’s been at best a 1B goalie, most times a backup. And the Canadiens acquired him to back up Carey Price. He’s not in his seat and he’s doing the best that he can as a starter. His salary also reflects his role.
Sam Montembeault: After a hot start with the coaching staff hand-picking his opponents, fans who wanted him as the team’s starter are now starting to realize that he’s not ready for that. Not horrible, not great either.
Jake Evans: A very, very slow start to the season, he’s picked it up the last few games.
Evgenii Dadonov: Invisible for most of the season, he has a good shift here and there showing that he does, indeed, have a pulse.
Joel Armia: Missing training camp has put the big guy behind the eight-ball. But since scoring his first goal and getting the monkey off his back, he’s much improved.
Rem Pitlick: Few expected Pitlick to be send to Laval. That’s how bad he started the season.
Michael Pezzetta: Most were expecting some progress from Pezz but he hasn’t lived up to expectations, likely his own too.
Chris Wideman: Indisciplined, he was supposed to help the Canadiens’ second PP unit. It hasn’t happened. But he has been a good teammate and veteran, taking his lumps without a word.
There you have it folks. By the time we do this exercise again at the end of the season, the list of players is likely to be quite different, as the Canadiens are looking at missing the playoffs once again.