What a difference a month makes. At the end of January, the Montreal Canadiens had been riding high on a wave of offensive talent and, perhaps premature, hype that hopefully wasn’t completely unjustified.
If anything, the first 10 games of the Canadiens’ season showed everyone in the North Division how dangerous this team can be. The last 10 showed fans how dangerous the Habs can be to themselves due to a lack of discipline, competent penalty killing and timely goaltending on the part of Carey Price, all due respect to his career up to this point.
Overall, fans got a glimpse of both versions of the Canadiens in February. They started off in dominant fashion with two wins against the Vancouver Canucks, only to crawl into March, with a 4-5-3 record last month, having lost three of four to the last-place Ottawa Senators, prompting a coaching change and a search for answers. At the top of the list, for the sake of this article anyway? Which Habs showed the most in February. Here are the top three stars:
3. Jake Allen
It’s not often a backup goalie will get recognized for monthly honors. However, Jake Allen started a noteworthy five games, earning a fairly respectable 2-1-2 record, with a .927 save percentage.
While expectations for Allen had been great heading in, it’s fair to say he’s exceeded them thus far. He’s not just giving Price a good chance to rest as was intended, but giving him a run for his money, with the still-undisputed starter struggling a third of the way through the season. As a comparison, in February, Price went 2-4-1 with an .880 save percentage. As unthinkable as it had been entering this season, there may come a time when the Habs have to go with the hot hand.
2. Josh Anderson
Josh Anderson may be currently injured following a slewfoot by Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo. However, with respect to February, it caused him to miss a single game at the tail end. He still potted five goals and seven points (11 games) in fairly impressive fashion the rest of the month.
Upon his acquisition, Habs fans may have had outside hopes Anderson would bounce back to the form he displayed in 2018-19 when he scored 27 goals and 47 points. With 12 points in 19 games so far, he’d actually be on pace for over 50 points (in 82 games), further justifying the trade that brought him to town for Max Domi.
Needless to say, Anderson’s absence leaves a fairly big hole in the lineup, and, obviously, not just due to his size (6-foot-3, 226 pounds) as the biggest forward up front.
1. Tyler Toffoli
Tyler Toffoli is one option to fill in for Anderon on the right side on the Nick Suzuki line. However, wherever he plays, it’s a fair assessment he’ll produce, as has been the case all year long.
For example, he started out on the third line beside Jesperi Kotkaniemi, resulting in him winning (THW) player-of-the-month honors in January. He then got promoted beside Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher against the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he scored a critical game-tying goal in the month’s biggest victory, a 2-1, come-from-behind-in-the-third win.
As a result, Toffoli takes the first star, with a team-leading six goals this past February. Defenseman Jeff Petry notably scored a team-leading 10 points to Toffoli’s eight (12 games). However, considering Toffoli’s overall impact this month, including one game-winning goal, the aforementioned game-tying goal against the Leafs and another late goal the next time out against the Leafs to make that game, a 5-3 loss, at least somewhat interesting, he gets the nod.
Petry admittedly falls out of the top three altogether in an especially close month, during which the team as whole struggled on both sides of the puck). Toffoli was meanwhile arguably the bigger offensive spark during a month everyone would likely love to blow out of existence. Unfortunately, blowing the team up isn’t an option, with Dominique Ducharme getting named interim head coach having to suffice for now.
With just over two months left in the season, Ducharme will have to make quick work, implementing whatever systemic improvements he envisions for this team. Until next time, in early April for the March installment of the Montreal Canadiens’ 3 Stars of the Month.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has also written for the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently writes about all things Habs for THW, with it being a career highlight for him to have covered the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.