Through thick and thin, the Montreal Canadiens are fifth overall in the NHL heading into the All-Star break. The Habs, like all teams, have dealt with major ups and downs through the first portion of the season. The team has been decimated by injuries in the last few months, but has survived due to the collaborative performance of a group of key players. These standouts have helped the Canadiens maintain their strong record despite the difficulties faced in recent weeks. The top team in the Atlantic division should give some credit to the following standouts as they look to power through the final 32 games of the NHL season.
Despite only playing in 30 of the Habs’ first 50 games, Galchenyuk is one of the team’s offensive leaders. He is scoring at almost a point-per-game pace, with 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists). Though he has been absent due to injury, the centre is progressing along nicely as he is slowly becoming one of the league’s premier goal-scorers.
It has been said time and time again: the Canadiens need to find a way to re-sign Radulov. The Russian has deservedly become a fan-favourite in Montreal. His clear passion and work ethic are greatly appreciated by the equally passionate Habs fanbase. With 37 points (12G, 25A) through 48 games, the winger is an integral part of the Habs’ success…and he also has a great smile.
Markov is proving us all wrong, isn’t he? At 38 years old and with a pair of bad knees, the Russian defenceman is still one of the Canadiens’ strongest players. His calming presence on the back end paired with his vision and ability to make plays makes him an excellent asset to the team. He has 21 points (2G, 19A) through 31 games. The Canadiens, along with their fans, impatiently await the return of the veteran defenceman, who is sidelined with an injury.
Petry continues to thrive in his role as a top defenceman for the Canadiens. Averaging over 22 minutes of ice time per game, the Michigan native is playing in every possible situation and is (for the most part) excelling. He is only one point away from his career high with 24 (8 goals, 16 assists). The 29-year-old has been a bright spot on an injury-riddled Canadiens team for the majority of their first 50 games.
Pacioretty’s 39 points (21G, 18A) put him on pace for 64 points this season. This is the same total that he had last season. The winger is on pace for 34 goals this year, which would bring his consecutive 30-plus-goal-season count to 4. Pacioretty’s leadership is shown through his consistency, along with his responsible defensive play and his clutch goal scoring. The American is beginning to flourish as the team captain despite still having some critics.
#Habs Max Pacioretty has 16 goals and 23 points in his last 23 games (16 G, 7 A). That is the most goals in the NHL since December 4th.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) January 21, 2017
Arguably the best waiver pickup in recent memory, Byron is proving to be useful in all situations this season. The speedy winger is a constant threat to opposing teams. He forces rival defencemen to make mistakes, and he often capitalizes using his quickness. The forward has already surpassed his career high in points with 28 (13G, 15A), and is currently the team’s fourth highest scorer. In fact, Byron is on pace to tally 46 points this season, which would more than double his previous career-high. How about that for a guy acquired for…nothing.
With injuries come opportunities. When the Canadiens lost both Galchenyuk and David Desharnais to injuries a few weeks ago, fans were wondering who would step up and fill the void. In came Danault, who proved that he could be an offensive threat if paired with talented scorers. His run on the top line was impressive, but that in itself isn’t enough to earn him a spot on the list. Frankly, Danault deserves to be here because he is playing solid hockey wherever he is placed. Be it in a scoring role on the first line or in a defensive third-line centre role, Danault is stepping up. With 25 points (10G, 15A) in 50 games, GM Marc Bergevin’s 2016 deadline-day acquisition is looking better and better with each game.
Weber has quietly played very strong hockey for the Habs thus far this season. The team benefits from his experience and leadership as well as his booming shot and defensive zone awareness. The defenceman logs serious minutes and manages to shut down opposing team’s top lines night in and night out. He plays in every situation, and has scored 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) through 50 games. Look for his experience to come into play even more as the season winds down and the playoffs roll around.
…And of Course, Carey Price
Though his last few weeks have been rough, Price is still an integral part of the Canadiens. The star goaltender’s recent struggles can be attributed to the quality of play in front of him. Due to their many injuries, his team hasn’t been able to play consistently strong hockey, and Price’s stats have suffered as a result. That said, Price is still one of (if not the) world’s best goalies, and without him, the Canadiens would be in deep, deep trouble. Despite his team’s recent difficulties, the goaltender has a solid 2.35 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.
Slowly but surely, Beaulieu is coming into his own as one of the Habs’ more important defenceman. He is averaging over 20 minutes of ice time each game and has 19 points through 44 games.
So far, so good for the Finnish rookie, who is looking more and more comfortable with each game. Lehkonen could turn into a valuable asset as the years pass.
Being paired with Weber has its benefits. Emelin has looked good this season, often making big defensive plays playing against top opposing lines.
Though these players have been good, they haven’t stood out as much as the others included on the list.
What to take away from this is that the Canadiens have a solid, diverse core of players that are performing well thus far. If they can add a piece or two to this core over the next month, they can be a dangerous team heading into the playoffs. Every successful team must have a strong group of leaders, and so far, the Canadiens are showing just that with the group of aforementioned players. Whether they lead by example on the ice, make their voices heard in the locker room, or both, this group of key players has helped the Canadiens stay afloat during difficult times over the last month or so.
I’m a Montreal Canadiens columnist and lifelong Habs fan. Follow me on Twitter (@gregkatz19) for all kinds of hockey talk, and to be up to date on my newest articles. I previously wrote for Too Many Men on the Site, a part of Fansided NHL.