Montreal Canadiens: Return to Respectability

(Photo: Eric Bolte, USA TODAY Sports)

After 51 games played, leading into the NHL all star weekend, which is followed by the Canadiens’ annual week long break, the team sits at number 9 in points throughout the entire league. Not bad for a group that was destined to hover around the bottom of the standings for the next few years. And with the trade deadline looming, all eyes will be on Marc Bergevin, waiting to see what direction he opts for in a serious attempt at reaching the post-season. But before we look ahead to that, let’s look back at some of the major contributing factors that led to this improbable turnaround for the Montreal organization.

I don’t believe there’s any debating the fact that Carey Price sits atop of this list. Since December 1st, Price has gone back to his elite self and without him, the Canadiens are nowhere near a playoff spot. Arguably the most scrutinized player in the NHL, he’s allowed more than two goals in only 5 of his last 20 outings, giving the Canadiens a chance to win on most nights.

Coincidence or not, it’s hard not to find a direct link between Price’s play and the return of stud defenseman Shea Weber. The Captain made what was considered to be an early return from injuries on November 27th and the netminder’s stats have been on the rise since. With 7 goals and 9 assists in the 27 games he’s played, Weber has also helped stabilize the defense with his strong play.

Where would the Canadiens be without Jeff Petry? Yes, you read that right and chances are most would agree. Another player who benefited greatly from Weber returning, Petry held down the fort quite admirably in his absence, but it’s his play since that has really impressed. Petry is a great asset to the Canadiens pushing toward the playoffs, with his timely offensive contributions that rank him sixth in the NHL for even strength points among defensemen.

(Photo: Getty Images)

The two big off-season acquisitions have thus far worked out better than the general manager himself probably had imagined. Max Domi and Tomas Tatar helped reshape the Canadiens’ offense; the pair sit at one and two respectively in team scoring, with both being on pace to hit the 25-goal mark. With strong contributions from others such as Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin, the Canadiens find themselves at around the middle of the pack at 14th in goals for; a significant improvement from 29th the previous season. As a matter of fact, the team is only 53 goals away from the 207 goals they managed all of last year, with 31 games left on the schedule, it’s almost a certainty they will improve on that mark by close to 50 goals.

As we approach the last quarter of the season, the Canadiens will have a chance to better their point total of last year by Valentine’s Day this season, they currently have 61 while finishing the year with 71 in 2018. And all that with no help from the special teams, as the Habs are dead last on the power play and 19th on the penalty kill. There’s no denying that the Canadiens’ roster still has major areas of need, but improving on those special teams would go a long way in helping their chances at reaching the post-season and finding some success when and if they get there.

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