Quick Out of the Gate

Despite a minor bump in the road on their recent west coast trip, the Montreal Canadiens have been enjoying an incredibly successful start to their season posting a 10-2 record.

The Canadiens have gotten off to such a quick start due to many reasons. Here they are, in alphabetical order no less.

Adjusting

The Canadiens have learned to adjust. Their style of play has adjusted to their roster. The Habs are shooting more and in doing so, they’re scoring more. They are playing for the next goal, aside from sitting back on a 3-0 lead against the Oilers which lead to an embarrassing last minute 4-3 loss, the Canadiens for the most part have continued to push for their next goal all season long. The first 20 minutes of heir game against St.Louis saw the Blues dominating the Canadiens. The Habs managed to adjust their game in the following two frames in order to earn themselves a 3-0 win.

Breakouts

Having Jeff Petry, a talented puck moving defenseman, for the entire season is huge for the Canadiens. The full time addition of Petry alongside veteran Andrei Markov, superstar P.K. Subban and up and comer Nathan Beaulieu, makes for a quick transition game. The Habs are out of their end much faster and on the attack.

Consistency

While there have certainly been games in which the team has found themselves outplayed, for the most part the Habs have been consistent in their play. Their 4-1 win over Detroit and their 5-1 loss to Vancouver have been the only times the Canadiens were not the first team to score. That same loss to Vancouver was the only game in which they failed to score more than three goals.

David Desharnais

That’s right, I said it. Sure, he was weak on the the Oilers game winning goal. I’m not saying he’s perfect but unless you dislike him enough to be blinded by his play this year you can’t help but see how he’s helping the team. By taking a role on the team’s third line, he has less  pressure to be the team’s first line centre, which he could never be. Now playing alongside Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, Desharnais has put up  two goals and added seven helpers for nine points in 12 games.

Even Strength

The Habs lead the league with 24 even strength goals and are second in the league with an even strength goal differential of +10.

Four lines 

The difference in the average ice time between the top and bottom lines is roughly six minutes. Michel Therrien is giving each lime ample opportunity to produce and they are responding. The first through fourth lines have put up 43, 17 (Semin and Byron both included), 24 and 15 points respectively. On any given night, any line can be dangerous which makes the Canadiens very tough to play against.

Goaltending

Mike Condon has been solid in his three outings posting a 3-0 record with a GAA of 1.67 and a .944 sv%. Carey Price? well, he’s been…. Carey Price.

H…

I’m not going to say it as many readers are superstitious, but it rhymes with wealth. Max Pacioretty came back from an off season injury in time to don the C and wear it with pride and determination posting seven goals and four assists for 11 points through his first 12 games.

Individual play

The team has been playing great but stand out performances by a handful of individuals are helping make this team so hard to beat.

  • Markov and Subban are playing out of this world, each posting 1-10-11pts including a five point night in Buffalo for Markov.
  • Price….well again, he’s Carey Price.
  • Tomas Plekanec is clearly enjoying playing with talented wingers on a nighty basis as he is leading the team in scoring with 12 points.
  • Devante Smith-Pelly seem much more comfortable playing in Montreal this season and is playing like he cares.

There are three more players who have really stood out, we’ll get to them soon enough.

Juggling lines

No more! The players know who they will be playing with each night and the lines are building more chemistry with each game. The line of Semin, Galchnyuk and Eller has been altered recently as Semin was replaced with Paul Byron but one change in 12 games for Therrien? That’s progress.

Killing Penalties

The Canadiens are fifth in the NHL while down a man with a success rate of 88.1%.

Leadership

The “C” fits Pacioretty perfectly and the team seems to be following his lead. Pacioretty is putting in 100% each night earning himself 11 points on the season so far. With Markov, Subban, Price, Plekanec and even Gallagher to help carry the weight, there is no lack of leadership on this team.

Mitchell, Torrey

What a season the Greenfield Park native is having. Mitchell is first amongst Habs forwards with 10 blocked shots and fifth in hits with 13. He has played a big role in shutting down the opposition’s top lines and has even notched eight points. Torrey Mitchell is centring what could be the leagues best fourth fourth lines alongside Brian Flynn and Devante Smith-Pelly.

No Brakes

The Canadiens are playing a more aggressive style of hockey and are constantly pushing for the next goal. They are not the type to sit back on leads anymore and have scored at least three goals in each of their games other than their 5-1 loss to the Canucks. No team has scored more than the Canadiens 45.

Opportunity 

Players are taking advantage of their opportunities. Galchenyuk is playing well at the Center position with eight points, Condon is proving to be a solid back up goalie after taking over for Dustin Tokarski and most recently, Paul Byron is taking advantage of being put into Alexander Semin’s spot posting two points in as many games, both against the Calgary Flames who had placed him on waivers,

Pacioretty, Max

Pacioretty’s 11 points in 12 games is second on the team. His 7 seven goals are second in the league. The offence that he and the first line are providing are the cause behind Desharnais being able to play with less pressure and therefore helping him produce more. The surge in offence has helped the Canadiens become more than just a team that relies on the world’s best goalie.

Quickness

After the Blues 3-0 to the Canadiens, Ken Hitchcock commented on how quick the Canadiens were. He said they were so quick even without the puck and they pressured his team’s puck carriers. The Habs speed forces quick decisions and many times mistakes by their opposition. Add that to their quick transition game and their speedy offence and it doesn’t take long for teams to find themselves trailing when playing the Habs.

Rafael Diaz

Diaz for Weise. Boom.

Scoring

It took the Canadiens to score less than three goals in a game. They’ve scoredat least three in every other one including seven against Buffalo and six against Calgary. Their 45 goals are nine more than the next team.

Therrien, Michel

As hated as he may be by many in Montreal, his team is 10-2 and it can no longer be said that it is solely due to his goalie. He is getting the best out of his players and has his team in first place, He’s got to be doing something right.

Upper Management

Therrien isn’t the only one off the ice who is contributing to the team’s success. Marc Bergevin has been putting this team together for years and they are finally starting to look like a legit contender. Bergevin’s decision to bring in DSP and re-sign Flynn and Mitchell has given the Canadiens one of the, if not the best fourth lines in the league. He managed to sign Petry to a long term deal before he hit the open market and while the verdict is still out on Semin, $1 million is well worth the gamble.

Van Morrison

Ok…. Van Morrison has done nothing to help the Habs, but I had nothing for V and his music is fantastic.

Weise, Dale

Weise is not being asked to be a top line winger anymore. The lowered expectations have been doing him some goos as he has eight points so far. His hat trick against the Flames puts him at six goals which is currently second most on the team in between Pacioretty and Plekanec,

Extra Man

A bit of a cop out going with “extra” for the letter X but xylophones have done nothing to help the Habs so just go with it. The Canadiens still have a lot of work to do with their power play but their recent success has shot them up to ninth in the NHL with a success rate of 22.8%.

(Y)Emelin, Alexei

Really reaching as I reach the end here by adding the Y back to Emelin, I know. I was going to go with youth but figured I would go another route since Jared Tinordi and Greg Pateryn have yet to see any ice time. Besides, Emelin has been playing some of his best hockey this year. He still has his critics and he won’t be up for the Norris Trophy but he has been making a lot of smart plays this season and been delivering a lot of big hits so I’m giving him some recognition for his early season play.

Zebras

The referees are exactly top notch in the NHL but they’ve done the Habs at least some good so far. That Gallagher goal against Detroit? Come on, that shouldn’t have counted. That no goal call when the puck went in off the stanchion? Sure, it as the right call but would you have expected them to get it right?

There are a lot of games left to be played and a lot can happen in a season but if the Canadiens continue to play the way they have been and manage to work out the few kinks that are in their play, this team can find themselves playing for their 25th cup in June.