The Montréal Canadiens have reached the quarter mark of the season and find themselves in second place in the National Hockey League’s Scotia North Division, four points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. Habs’ general manager Marc Bergevin held his state of the union press conference on Monday and shared his thoughts on the Canadiens’ play so far.
By the Numbers
Montréal currently sits second place in the Scotia North division with a record of 9-4-2 and 20 points, four behind the Maple Leafs. New signing Tyler Toffoli leads the Habs in goals with 10, defenceman Jeff Petry sits atop the assists column with nine, and Toffoli again leads the team in points with 15. Not far behind is the sophomore sensation, Nick Suzuki, with 12. The Canadiens burst out of the gate with five wins in seven games, and quickly emerged as one of the best penalty-killing teams in the league. Carey Price returned to his dominant form as the Habs shut down the high-scoring offenses of the Edmonton Oilers and Maple Leafs.
Bergevin praised the play of the Canadiens’ new signings, singling out Toffoli and Josh Anderson as catalysts for the Habs’ hot start this year. Bergevin said of Anderson “I like what he brings; even when he doesn’t score.” Bergevin was not surprised at Anderson’s play, adding that he brings exactly what was expected of him when he was traded to the Canadiens from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Max Domi. He scores more often than not, as he sits second on the Canadiens with nine goals, including two in his first game as a Hab.
Like many, Bergevin also praised the team’s newfound depth, as the signings of Anderson, Toffoli, blue liner Joel Edmundson, and backup goaltender Jake Allen have provided stability for the team’s veterans. Edmundson has proven himself an anchor on the second pairing alongside Petry, a duo who remains among the league leaders in plus/minus.
The balanced nature of the Canadiens’ attack to this point has also drawn considerable attention, as five players have at least 10 points on the season. The presence and play of Allen have also stabilized the goaltending situation, allowing the traditionally overworked Price to take extra rest days as well as permit coach Claude Julien to reserve Price for strategically significant games, which he has done a few times already this season. They call Price “Mr. Saturday Night” for a reason.
Some Issues Apparent
For all the talk about the Canadiens’ depth offense and balanced lineup, there have also been some issues along the way. Players like Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who many expected to have a breakout season, have struggled on the scoresheet so far this season, posting one goal and six assists in 15 games. Perhaps a modest performance so far, but his performance in the bubble last season had many thinking differently and expecting a little more from him. The same could be said for Paul Byron, formerly one of the Habs’ most consistent producers, who has also had issues recently; so much so that he was placed on waivers to clear cap space.
As for overall play, Bergevin noted that the past few games did not display the Canadiens’ best hockey. While they started off well, Bergevin felt the last five games demonstrated that the team lost a bit of their focus and may have gotten complacent, which allowed opponents to adapt to their style and successfully negate their scorers. Bergevin said this is to be expected over the course of a season, and that adversity allows teams to improve because they recognize their own errors.
Overall, the Canadiens can be pleasantly surprised with their current position in the standings and with the production they’ve seen from all aspects of the team. As with any other team, there are issues that need to be addressed, but they’ve got a week between games to practice and iron out those inconsistencies, as well as 41 more games to put the plan into action.
Covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and other topics for The Hockey Writers. Also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and progressive rock music.