The Montreal Canadiens reached the midpoint of their season last week. It’s a fitting time to look at their players and give them a grade for their performance.
The Montreal Canadiens played game number 41 last week when they fell 4-1 to the Washington Capitals. It brought their record to 25-10-6 and had them on pace for an impressive 112 points. They remain miles ahead of the pack in the Atlantic Division.
I figured this would be as good a time as any to review the progress of each player and assign them a grade. Well, the day after the Capitals loss would have been the best time, since it was literally the midway point of the regular season.
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But hey, I’m a teacher and had actual math exams to grade first. I know no one on here cares about that, but I’m assuming my administration wouldn’t understand me putting off marking high school exams because “I was analyzing Canadiens players and assessing their performance.”
So, I’m a few games late. However, the Canadiens are going deep in the postseason, so they haven’t even played half of their games this season yet, anyway. That’s right, this team is all in this season. Therefore the final exam (playoffs) will be all that matters.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t analyze everything that has happened thus far. Let’s take a look at the how the Canadiens defenders and goaltenders have performed thus far.
First, perhaps I should briefly describe my rubric or racing scheme. In order for a defenceman to get an A+, I’d have to think you are an excellent player in all three zones and can be counted on to play a top pairing role on the power play, penalty kill and at even strength.
An A is reserved for a player who is playing like an average first pairing defenceman. An A- would be for a player who you could live with on your top pair, but wouldn’t be thrilled to have there.
A’s are for first pairing guys, B’s are for second pairing defencemen. B+ for a solid number three who can anchor a second pairing. B is for a good but not great second pairing defender while a B- would be for a guy who can be stretched out to be on the second unit.
That means if I think you can be a third pairing defender, I’d give you a C. C+ if you offer more than the average third pairing defenceman. C means you could play on my third pair and I’d be fine with it. C- is given to a player who is barely holding down a job in the NHL. D means you belong in a lesser league.
The Top 4:
Shea Weber stepped into a lion’s den when he was dealt to the Canadiens for P.K. Subban. Subban was one of the most beloved players to ever wear the Habs sweater and was a perennial Norris Trophy candidate. The “Man Mountain” has silenced any critics with an excellent first half. He is third on the team with 28 points and is tied for third on the squad with ten goals. He’s been excellent on the power play, penalty kill and at even strength. No one in Montreal has forgotten Subban, but Weber has done an exceptional job taking on the nearly impossible task of replacing P.K.
Markov was off to a great first half before an injury sidelined him. In 31 games he scored 21 points. He provided an exceptionally poised and intelligent presence on the power play. His 0.68 points per game ranks seventh among all blue liners this season. Markov also plays a hugely underrated role on the team’s penalty kill. Since he has gone down, the team’s goals against average has ballooned while their special teams units have suffered. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The 37 year old Russian just remains that important to this team in both ends of the rink.
Petry continues to make Bergevin look brilliant. Petry was cast aside from one of the worst blue lines in recent memory when the Edmonton Oilers decided he was expendable. Bergevin gladly grabbed the puck moving blue liner for second and fourth round picks. Petry has been excellent at both ends of the ice for the Habs. He skates well, makes crisp, accurate breakout passes and continues to push the puck towards the opponent’s zone. He plays more than 22 minutes per night and has 22 points in 44 games.
Emelin has performed above expectations for the Canadiens this season. He has often been partnered with Shea Weber on the top pairing. Not many fans had Emelin penciled in that high in the lineup when the season began. He has just six points in 43 games but plays a hard-hitting defensive style. What he lacks in offensive abilities he makes up for with tough, defensive play. He still may be better suited as a second pairing guy, but he has performed admirably when pushed to what we all thought was out of his comfort zone.
Beaulieu was supposed to be the puck-moving partner for Weber. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Consistency is the biggest concern for the 24 year old first round draft pick. Some nights he looks like an excellent two way force. Others he looks lost in his own zone. His skating is phenomenal, his ability to carry the puck is fantastic, his passing is top notch. His defensive game and physicality make him tough to play against as well. That’s when he is on, but it’s not all put together often enough.
Pateryn has been injured for nearly a month, but was having a hard time keeping his spot in the lineup before then. He plays a very unspectacular style, which is fine for a bottom pairing defender. He’s a physical, right shot defender who is averaging just under 14 minutes per game in his 19 contests this season. He is rarely used on special teams and will once again have to battle for a lineup spot when he returns from injury.
C’s get degrees! Just don’t tell my students I said that. In this case, it gets Redmond a roster spot, but not much else. He has five points in the 11 games he has played. The 28 year old was brought in for depth purposes, and is having a hard time holding off some depth minor leaguers for playing time. He was supposed to be an analytics darling, but is proving to be nothing more than a depth piece for when injuries strike.
Barberio was solid for the Canadiens last season and it was thought he could earn a top six role out of training camp. That didn’t happen. After a lousy training camp, Barberio was placed on waivers, unclaimed and sent to the St. John’s Ice Caps. He played well for them and eventually was called back up. He has four points in 21 games with the Habs, but hasn’t had the same impact he had one year ago. If his play had to be summed up in one word it would be: meh.