The New and Improved Lineup of the Montreal Canadiens

*Forwards rankings in stats are among forwards only and defencemen’s ranking in stats are among defencemen only

*All stats are from 5 on 5 hockey (from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com and War-on-Ice)

During our current and sad time when the Habs are desperate for goals and wins, I’ve decided to dig deep into the stats and analyze our entire lineup to create the best possible line combinations and defensive pairings given the roster put forth by Bergevin.

Forwards

1) Pacioretty – Galchenyuk – Gallagher

It’s pretty clear to me that this should be our top line. Not only does it have our three best offensive players, but they also all slot perfectly into their preferred position. Pacioretty, Galchenyuk and Gallagher rank 4th, 3rd and 2nd respectively in PTS/60 and 1st, 2nd and 4th in personal scoring chances.

It’s obvious that these are our three best offensive forwards and there’s no reason why they all shouldn’t have the opportunity to play with each other. Arguments saying that Galchenyuk is irresponsible defensively or that he “just isn’t ready yet” sound ridiculous to me. He is undoubtedly our third best offensive player. This is certainly our deadliest combination of three forwards.

 

2) Eller – Plekanec – Carr

*Carr is interchangeable for Andrighetto or Hudon but I personally feel he is the best out of the three at the moment

The most obvious selection for the second line is Plekanec at center. If you’re a Habs fan, you know quite well why Plekanec is in our top six. The less obvious choices are Eller and Carr. I’ve argued in Eller’s defense many times and for good reason. He currently ranks 6th in CF% and SCF%, but has notably struggled putting up points. With the opportunity to play second line minutes and next to Plekanec, his point numbers are sure to increase. Even if you don’t see or believe in his potential, he is still our best option offensively at the left wing position.

The reason why a prospect is at the RW position is because we unfortunately don’t have any better options. Marc Bergevin has failed to acquire a top six scoring RW. Our best bet is Carr, who is a young and promising forward who’s shown that he can dominate possession (4th in CF%) and score goals (2nd in GF/60) but asking him to play in the top six all season is simply too demanding. You can’t afford to play bottom six forwards such as Weise or Smith-Pelly in your top six. Therefore, gambling on prospects has to be our best option at the moment… It’s not pretty, I know. 

 

 3) Fleishchmann – Desharnais – Weise

Ah, the great ‘ole PDO line. During the Habs hot steak to start the year, this line absolutely tore it up. It shouldn’t be to anyone’s surprise that they all drastically slowed down but trying to rekindle the magic they had at the beginning of the year is not a terrible idea.

Not only does this line have history that we would all love to see repeated but they also all rank around 6th-9th in stats such as CF%, PTS/60 and SCF%. This third line is more than just a checking/defensive line as we all witnessed what could happen if they get the ball rolling. I also think that they all slot perfectly into the third line as none of these players are better scorers than anyone in the top six yet they’re certainly a step up in terms of talent compared to our fourth line.

 

4) Byron – Mitchell – Flynn

I won’t go into great detail about this line as there isn’t too much to say. Byron is a fantastic penalty killer and brings speed to a gritty and grinding line. The reason I have Flynn in the line-up over Smith-Pelly is because I think he’s clearly the superior player. He can also kill penalties, which is something he undoubtedly does better than DSP. Unless DSP drastically improves his speed, I don’t think he brings anything exciting to the table.

 

Defenceman 

 

1) Beaulieu – Subban

There really, really shouldn’t have to be an explanation of why Subban should be on the top pairing but there certainly has to be an argument for Beaulieu. Beaulieu was off to a great start this season but has tailed off during the past few games so a promotion to the top pairing could get him back on track and make him feel comfortable and confident. He’s a young, puck-moving defenceman who is only improving and learning as he gets more games under his belt. Beaulieu’s skill isn’t the only reason to give him first line minutes, as his endurance and durability will turn him into a long lasting partner for Subban. When Beaulieu is on the ice, the Habs score 1.89 G/60, which ranks him 4th, and they only give up 1.98 GA/60, which ranks him 2nd. This also takes tons of weight of Markov’s shoulders as he’s shown recently that he can’t handle the responsibilities of being a top pairing defenceman anymore.

 

2) Barberio – Petry

Once again, there shouldn’t have to be an explanation of why Bergevin’s best acquired asset, Petry, is our second best defenceman on the right-side as it should be quite obvious that he’s significantly better than Tom Gilbert.

Call me crazy, but I’m demoting Markov to the third pairing in favour of Barberio. Mark Barberio has been absolutely unreal in his first 9 games and he has earned the opportunity to play with Petry to get top 4 minutes. We have to remember that the sample size is small, but here are some of his stats: 1st in CF%, 1st in SF%, 2nd in GF/60, 2nd in SCF% and 2nd in PTS/60. He’s also posting these numbers with a low-ish PDO of 98.7, which suggests that his numbers could even improve. I’ll be closely watching Barberio because right now he’s looking like a real stud. If Markov picks up his game this decision will get tougher, but at the moment I don’t see how you can think he is outplaying Barberio.

 

3) Markov – Emelin

Oh, Markov. Markov has been really off for the past couple of weeks and I desperately hope that it’s something other than age catching up to him. He’s had many issues holding the blue line as well as making careless turnovers that have caused too many goals to even remember. He’s going to need his legs in the playoffs (if we even make it) and right now I don’t think he’s been better than either Beaulieu or Barberio. Emelin, on the other hand, has never been a player which I liked. I think his physicality is an overrated quality that doesn’t make up for his lack of speed and skill. He’s the last defenceman on the team in which I’d want to have the puck and I have no trust in him to make good passes to get it up the ice efficiently, which the Habs really struggle with.

 

The New and Improved Lineup:

 

Pacioretty – Galchenyuk – Gallagher

 

Eller – Plekanec – Carr (Andrighetto)

 

Fleischmann – Desharnais – Weise

 

Byron – Mitchell – Flynn

 

Beaulieu – Subban

 

Barberio – Petry

 

Markov – Emelin

 

Want to talk about my preferred line combinations? Tweet me: @HabsNewsAndTalk

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