Even though it’s only six games into the season so far for the Montreal Canadiens, they are already looking like a different team compared to last year. It’s easy to say this considering they have won six straight games as it is the team’s best start in franchise history, impressive considering some of the dynasty, star studded teams of the past. However, there have been a lot of positive signs such as Alex Galchenyuk playing at centre, Carey Price looking as dominant as last year and the team scoring goals, which was a major concern last season.
Montreal Canadiens’ Offense Starting Strong
The offense has been potent to start so far for Montreal. The top line of new captain Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher has provided a lot of the scoring for Montreal and they have been strong on both sides of the puck. Alex Galchenyuk looks comfortable at centre although proficiency on faceoffs has been slow to come. Putting the defensively responsible Lars Eller on Galchenyuk’s wing has provided insurance. Alexander Semin has good possession numbers so far but the goals haven’t come for him. At times, he looks lost on the ice and his speed looks diminished compared to recent years.
David Desharnais has adjusted well as the third line centre playing alongside Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise. The line has the speed and offensive ability to give other team fits, a weapon for Montreal to keep the pressure on when the top lines are off. The fourth line is also noticeably better than last year’s. Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn look more comfortable to start the season while Devante Smith-Pelly has looked his best since coming over from Anaheim last season.
"Nice start," I said to 6-0 #Habs Tomas Plekanec post-game. He just shrugged & replied, "And that's all it is. We're just getting started."
— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) October 18, 2015
Defense, Goaltending and Power Play
The defence has been tight to this point. PK Subban and Andrei Markov are still the top pairing but the biggest concern is how neither seem to be able to help out the power play. In this case, Jeff Petry and Nathan Beaulieu have been more effective as the point men on the PP to their credit. Alexei Emelin looks more like his old self, from before he damaged his knee in 2013. He has been a consistent physical presence and he has lessened the mistakes which is encouraging.
Carey Price has continued his dominance so far this season. With Montreal’s improved play, Price hasn’t been relied upon as much and considering how the team needs him in the playoffs, a lighter load can only help him. Backup goalie Mike Condon has only started one game but looked strong in a win versus the Ottawa Senators. He plays a calm style and his size and athleticism are strengths. Montreal is outshooting teams and getting timely scoring from its players. Puck possession has been an improvement, while the penalty kill has looked strong. The most glaring area for improvement is still the power play.
The Montreal Canadiens are a close knit group and it’s evident in their play on the ice. Having a captain makes more sense this year instead of having four players rotate the A all the time. Pacioretty is now seen as the leader for the team, the player his teammates will look to. The season is just getting started and while Montreal has areas they can improve on, there is lots to like so far.