After finishing last season 28th overall in the NHL, it was easy to say the Canadiens were a lot of things, such as too small, too injury prone, not enough secondary scoring, terrible power play, and so on. So what is the reasoning behind a quick 4 – 1 start to the season? Lets start with the top and work our way down. Marc Bergevin. He accepted the General Manager position in the toughest hockey town in all of the NHL, but what he did is something that Habs fans haven’t seen much of, added help.
He went on to hire an assistant GM in Rick Dudley, who has been around the game as long as anyone has been.
Then he hired Scott Mellanby, Martin Lapointe, Patrice Brisebois, all in roles dealing with player development. Bergevin then went on and hired an experienced coach, a coach who knows the hockey market in Montreal pretty well, Michel Therrien. Some were surprised at this hiring, some were not giving him a chance from the get go, but a current 4 game winning streak and a hard working team has his critics pretty tight lipped right now. Therrien went on to hire his own assistant coaches by letting Randy Cunnyworth walk. Gerard Gallant has a good grasp on the game and he is taking his smarts to the board with special teams. Ex Habs defenseman J.J Daigneault was working as an assistant coach in the AHL before Therrien called him with an opening position, he seems to really emphasize shot blocking and puck movement.
What about on the ice? Off season additions such as Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong and Francis Boullion added some much needed character and toughness, not to mention leadership. Rookie scoring is also causing a storm of excitement with 3rd overall pick Alex Galchenyuk and 20 year old Brandon Gallagher. Galchenyuk was never meant to become part of this team so quickly, but his hockey smarts, his size, and his skill made it impossible for the coaching staff to send him back to Sarnia. He now sits with 1 goal, 4 assists in 5 games played, making him 3rd in team scoring. Gallagher doesn’t have the size, but he has everything else to make up for it. He’s fearless, he’s talented and he’s showing he belongs in the NHL right now.
Last season the power play was something that just wasn’t working, and injuries played a big part in that. This year, the habs are healthy (despite losing Pacioretty for 3-4 weeks). Andrei Markov has shown he hasn’t lost a step despite having 2 major knee surgeries and only playing 73 NHL games since the 2008-2009 season. With already 3 game winning goals and his excellence on the power play, he is showing that his knees are perfectly fine.
Lets not forget the blue line, before the return of Subban the Canadiens have really held their own. Gorges is playing like he always does, blocking shots, playing a solid defensive game, and displaying his leadership. Emelin is a train….meaning? You don’t want to get hit by him or a train. Playing big minutes paired up with Markov, he’s really developed into a very solid top 4 defenseman. Diaz is racking up points on the power play along with Markov, but his puck movement ability has really improved. Boullion will always put up his best effort, not being the biggest guy on the ice, he sure plays like it.
Then in goal they have one of the best young talented net minders in the league, Carey Price. Even with a terrible season as a team last year, Carey still put up strong numbers for a club who ranked 28th overall. This year, he’s been in goal for all 5 games and posted a 4-1 record, with a 1.98 GAA and a save % of .924. Is he ready to take his game to the next level? Well after 5 games its hard to justify, but come seasons end, don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned for the Vezina trophy, which is awarded to the leagues best goaltender.
-The blue line caper