The Deepest Team in the NHL
For any team, going on a 5 game road trip is a tough feat. Coming out of that trip with at least 5 points out of a possible 10 is usually considered a victory. But when a team dresses 4 rookies during that road trip, collecting 4 points would be a miracle. The Montreal Canadiens dressed 4 rookies, and came away with 8 out of a possible 10 points. It should come to no surprise to anyone that Bergevin’s Habs are in first place in the East.
The depth the Canadiens posses is to be coveted by every other NHL team in the league. Even the mighty Chicago Blackhawks have finnally become susceptible to the injury bug. “Hawks win!!!” has become a phrase of the past (currently a 2 game losing streak). Depth was something that every single writer, analyst, reporter,. manager, scout, coach and player spoke about coming into this shortened season, so in my opinion, no team has any excuse for their seeding in the standings. Isn’t funny how the slogan for the Habs this season is “No Excuses” ? Coincidence, I think not.
Many writers & analysts have declared the Boston Bruins as the team to beat in the East. Many of them even calling the Bruins the deepest team in the NHL. Will somebody please let me know when the standings didn’t seem to mean anything? I am well aware of the 4 games that Boston has in hand over the Canadiens, but that has nothing to do with the depth of the Bruins. Montreal deserved to win the first meeting between their heated rivals earlier in the season, but got caught on 2 quick third period markers. And in the last meeting, the Habs were the smarter, more disciplined and better team and earned the 2 points. I’m completely raged to hear people praise the Bruins and their hypocritical, Goon type of hockey they play. Of course, it should come as no surprise that Montreal gets snubbed of the praise that they justly deserve.
The Canadiens are no doubt, the deepest team in the whole NHL. What defines a deep team you ask? Well I don’t have a simple definition for you, but I will try and define it for you. Let’s start in goal.
Carey Price isthe undisputed number 1 and favorite to start for team Canada in the 2014 Olympics. Apart from a couple rough outings against the Penguins, and Islanders respectively (the Habs’ defensive coverage in those games was terrible), Price leads the NHL in wins, and sports a very respectable 2.37 GAA and 0.910 SV% with 2 shutouts. Tuukka Rask is having a stellar season for the Bruins, with 12 wins, 2 shutouts with a 1.97 GAA and a 0.927 SV%. Peter Budaj & Anton Khudobin both have 4 wins as backup tendys, both with solid numbers. So it would appear that at this point in time, Boston holds the edge in goal. But as a faithful Canadiens fan, I have full trust in Carey Price to challenge for a vezina candidate.
On the Offensive front for these teams, both Max Pacioretty & Patrice Bergeron lead their clubs in points with 21 in 22 games (Michael Ryder technically leads the Habs in points with 23 in 26 games but has only suited up for 7 with Montreal). The stat that stands out to me is that the Habs lead the NHL with 13 players scoring 10 or more points so far this season, and Brandon Prust has 9. The Bruins only have 7 with 10 or more points. The Habs offense is by committee, not by a single line or player.
The Canadiens also lead the NHL in points from the blueline. PK Subban leads the NHL in goals by a defense man. 4 Canadiens blue liners have 10 or more points, and with the offense Josh Gorges & Francis Bouillon have shown as of late, it wont be long before the Habs have 6 Defensemen with at least 10 points. Dougie Hamilton (who should have been a Toronto Maple Leaf thanks to Brian Burke) is the lone Bruin over 10 points, while the whole Bruins defense has 9 goals compared to 17 for the Habs which leads the NHL.
Some other Canadiens stats speak volumes to the wonderful job Michel Therrien & Marc Bergevin have done. Josh Gorges ranks 13th in the league with 60 blocked shots, which is a little lower than usual for Josh, but clearly the Habs are a team who don’t play in their own zone as much as last year. Montreal is playing offense and winning games, that is why Gorges doesn’t need to block as many shots. Alexei Emelin’s 88 hits rank 7th in the league, and again, no he is not hitting less, he just has less opportunity to hit as the Habs are playing way more offense than last year. Brandon Prust leads the NHL in penalty minutes yet he leads the Habs in plus/minus with a plus- 13. Tomas Plekanec ranks 9th in the league for faceoff wins and 15th in shots on goal with 82. Plekanec is proving his value as the best centre the habs posses. Can any other team boast 2 rookies in the top 5 of rookie scoring other than Edmonton? Nope. Not to mention both of them are a combined plus- 16 (Gallagher plus- 9, Galchenyuk plus- 7), Compared to the Oilers young guns who boast a combined minus- 23. B-Gally & A-Gally are studs.
Photo: John Kenney, The Gazette
I’m not here to say the Bruins don’t have depth because I would be a complete idiot to say so. I am here to say however, that the depth Marc Bergevin’s Montreal Canadiens have is of higher significance. Has Boston had a tough schedule to date? No. In fact, Boston has had the easiest schedule in the league having only played 1 back to back in early January and the fewest games so far with 22. Montreal has already had 4 back to back games so far this year, and both of the games between the Habs & Bruins have been during back to back games for Montreal (February 6 was the first night of back to back, while March 3 was the second night of back to back). Has Boston battled through the injury bug yet? No they have not. Other than a game or two to recover from the flu, and Claude Julien tinkering with his 4th line, Boston has had had the same line up consistently throughout this season. Montreal has been without Rene Bourque for the past 9 games, while Raphael Diaz has sat out for the past 7, both of which have been suffering from concussions. Brendan Gallagher also missed 4 games with a concussion. The Canadiens best defenseman PK Subban was absent for the first 6 games of the season as he and Marc Bergevin were busy signing a new contract. Carey Price also went down for a few games due to the stomach flu, in which Peter Budaj stood on his head, and he even posted a shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes. Michel Therrien has made Ryan White, Lars Eller, Travis Moen, and Tomas Kaberle all healthy scratches, some more than for just 1 game… Yannick Weber anyone?
Anybody who simply looks over the Montreal Canadiens and is quick to label the Blackhawks or Bruins as the Deepest teams in the NHL clearly has not done their homework. The ignorance and hypocrisy of reporters of the Bruins such as Jack Edwards is disgusting. It is my pleasure to speak truth and shed light on the facts of this season. Boston is a deep team, yes I agree with that statement. Are they the deepest? The correct answer is no. The deepest team in the NHL is the Montreal Canadiens.
Every team should live the slogan “No Excuses” but not every team is humble enough to do so. Champions battle through adversity. Champions lose battles, but they win the war. Champions conquer. The Canadiens WILL conquer.