By JD Lagrange – While the Montreal Canadiens aren’t doing as well as they were in the first couple of months of the season, there are some positive aspects on which fans can focus on. Felling that I’ve written a couple of not-so-positive articles lately, I thought about returning to my glass half-full mindset and highlight some of the positive points – or Habsitivity – happening around the team that we adore.
After a strong start of the season, where the coaching staff was sheltering him a bit, Monty fell hard in December, much like the rest of the team. But in his last three starts, he has bounced back recently, taking full advantage of Jake Allen’s injury. In his last four starts, Montembeault is 2-2-0 with a 2.28 goals against average and a .943 saves percentage.
No, the Canadiens are NOT going to trade Allen based on (x number of games by Monty) games. But he might be earning some consideration to get more starts when Jake the Snake returns.
Let’s face it, with 26 goals in 44 games, Caufield has been a model of consistency for most of the season, and I’d venture to say even more so than his good friend Nick Suzuki. But he did go through a stretch of four games in late December without a point, and his play had gone down substantially during that stretch.
Since December 31st however, we are fortunate enough to see him heating up again. Since then, he has eight points (7 goals) in eight games. At the time of writing this, he is tied with none other than Leon Draisaitl for 9th in goals in the entire NHL… five ahead of Rocket Richard Trophy winner Auston Matthews.
While I know full well that some disagree, the fact remains that Anderson is having one of his best seasons in a Canadiens’ uniform. They will look at the fact that he’s been held off the scoresheet in his last four games to say that he’s not playing well. Yet, it cannot be further from the truth. He is on pace for yet another 20-plus goals season but more than that, he is more consistent, even when he does’t score.
While he will never be nominated for a Selke Trophy, he has greatly improved defensively, to the point where Martin St-Louis utilizes him to kill penalties! He also carries the puck a lot more and a lot better, and the coaching staff asks him to be the swingman to gain zone entry on the power play on the second unit (Suzuki does it on the first unit).
All in all, we are noticing Anderson every game now, and for the right reasons. Does he still need some polishing? Yes. Does he have things to work on? Absolutely. But if one cannot recognize the improvement and what he brings to this team, we can certainly question the reasons behind this inability to acknowledge it.
Let’s face it, Dach is a pleasant surprise and the gamble taken by Kent Hughes trading for him seems to be paying off. The 6-foot 4-inches, 212 forward has been excellent defensively and he is becoming more physical, following in the footsteps of Anderson it seems.
Dach has four points in his last four games, three of which being goals. He now has a career-high 27 points in only 44 games. His previous high was 26 points in Chicago, but in 70 games. Unless disaster strikes, this could very well be his breakthrough season in the NHL.
After a slow start to the season in Laval, Ylönen has been one of the Rocket’s best players in recent weeks and as we’ve noticed in our feature “In the system”, he has been on a steady climb for the past couple of months now. He has fully earned his call-up and in both games that he’s played, he has looked very good. In three games so far, he has one assist but beyond the points, he has been reliable defensively and he’s a threat on offense.
Good skater, the Finnish winger benefits of an above-average hockey IQ. He has good hands, a good shot and he plays a 200-foot game. Some fans are worried about the fact that he’s not overly heavy, a legitimate point. But thus far, he is showing that it’s not an issue.
Since returning from injury, Drouin is a changed player. He has been a lot more intense, more involved at both ends of the ice and the coaching staff has trusted him at the center position. Known as a pass-first type of player, the Ste-Agathe native has been taking more shots on goal too, something he hasn’t always been doing throughout his career.
His hard work and better dedication playing a solid 200-foot game is paying off on the scoresheet too, as he has been piling up the points lately.
On December 28th, Drouin had five points in 19 games. Since then, he is second on the Canadiens with seven points in nine games, trailing only Caufield by one point. He also seems to be making better decisions from the point on the power play.
Ever since he scored his first goal of the season (and a few games before), we can see the Joel Armia that we are accustomed to seeing. Much like Joel Edmundson, missing training camp really put him behind and with the team playing so well at the beginning, it was difficult for him to catch up.
|by Jan. 4||26||0||3||3||-7|
|since Jan. 5||6||3||1||4||0|
Always reliable defensively, he is getting his scoring chances in just about every game. He still has some work to do, but there is finally room for optimism now.
It’s been a very disappointing season for Evans this year. But the timing of his injury is very unfortunate as he had been a lot more implicated in the play and, with his linemates, he was starting to created more scoring opportunities.
By January 3rd, had seven points in 38 games all season and he wasn’t playing particularly well. But prior to being injured by Brock Nelson falling onto his leg against the Islanders, he was riding a hot streak in which he had four points in four games. He was also a key player on the penalty kills.
In the past few games, Dadonov is showing that he actually has a pulse. Still far from the type of player that I like because he is often letting the opponent get the puck to avoid contact, he has been generating a bit more offense and has put up a few points on the board lately.
|by Dec. 1||19||1||1||2||-9|
|since Dec. 2||16||1||7||8||+1|
Admittedly, I’m not a fan of Dadonov but force is to admit that he has been playing better in the past six weeks or so. He has been held off the scoresheet in his last four games so here’s hoping that it’s not a sign of him packing it up… again.
Now, let’s see if Mike Hoffman can do the same when given the opportunity. No one thought that the Habs could trade them by trade deadline, let alone getting something in return. If they keep this up, Hughes might be able to entice someone to take them, without having to give up another asset to make it happen… even if the return is minimal.