For the Montreal Canadiens to dig themselves out of the massive hole they created to get back into the playoff picture, there are a lot of players who need to step their game. However, there are certain individuals on this team who have contracts to live up to and a lot of expectations. Below is a list of five Habs players who need to take their game to a new level in order to help Montreal get out of the basement and back into the playoff picture.
The Obvious Candidates
The easiest and most obvious choice. Since returning from injury, Price has allowed just two goals in his past three games. As Price goes, so does Montreal. He gives his team confidence with his play and calm demeanour. It’s rare to see Price get rattled and it was an issue early on in the season for him. As their best player, Price will continue to be relied upon heavily, especially as they inch closer back into a playoff spot.
As the season has gone on, Drouin has quickly become the focal point of the offence. As the team’s number one centre, he still struggles defensively and with faceoffs at times, but his improvements are noticeable. However, they didn’t bring in Drouin to be a shutdown centre. They brought him in to be a top offensive player.
With 17 points in 25 games, Drouin has been heating up lately with four points in his past three games. He is one of few players on the Habs who brings fans out of their seats when he gets the puck. As he gains more trust from head coach Claude Julien, Drouin will be even more of a fixture. Management clearly believed in him when they signed him to his big contract (six-years, $33 million).
Frustrating with More to Give
With top defenceman Shea Weber out with an injury, Petry has really stepped up his game. Early this season, his number of bad games far outweighed the good ones. However, entrusted with more minutes out of necessity, Petry finally looks like the player he can be. Moving the puck with confidence and overall making smarter plays, he has been a big part of Montreal’s mini win streak. Petry can be a frustrating player in the sense he has all the tools such as good skating, decent size and the ability to play offensively but can fail to take advantage of it. If Petry can keep up his recent play, it goes a long way in stabilizing the second defence pairing.
Galchenyuk’s time in Montreal has been nothing less than soap opera at times. Trade rumours constantly swirl around him and it’s impossible to know if he’ll finish the season with the Habs. He had a frustrating start to the year where Julien had him on the fourth line.
For the past month, though, Galchenyuk has been playing wing on the top line. His all-around game and effort has been much better and he is slowly gaining more and more chemistry with Drouin. However, he has just 11 points in 26 games and only five goals so far. It’s a question worth asking if he should switch positions with Drouin, but it’s an idea that management doesn’t seem willing to entertain. If Galchenyuk regain the 30 goal form he is capable of being, all of the sudden Montreal’s top line becomes more of a threat.
Eyes on the Captain
Ending this list with the captain, Pacioretty takes a ton of heat for the kind of player he is. He is a streaky goal scorer, but one that finds his way to 30 goals every year. The more infuriating aspect of his game is that he disappears for stretches on the ice to the point you barely see him involved in the play and not hear his name called.
Considering he primarily plays on a line with Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw, two players who hustle every shift, Pacioretty sometimes looks like a ghost in comparison. It’s the fact that he still receives prime opportunities despite his occasional lackadaisical play that frustrates some fans, especially if a player like Galchenyuk is guilty of the same thing but is nailed to the bench instead. Montreal needs their captain to step up his game and get on a hot streak.
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) November 29, 2017
All Hands on Deck
The Montreal Canadiens will need their entire roster to pitch in and play up to their potential. However, these five players, in particular, hold the key to Montreal’s season. These players are expected to perform and are getting the big bucks to do so. It’s been six years at the helm for Bergevin, so missing the playoffs will be considered an absolute disaster. Will these five live up to their contracts? Or will it be a long summer in Montreal?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ryerson University. I am a freelance journalist and a Montreal Canadiens writer for The Hockey Writers. I previously wrote for Simcoe.com and Last Word on Sports as well as interned at TSN.