For about a year now, they were many who predicted and hoped that, by early this season, they would be able to continue on their campaign in hoping that the moves made by the Montreal Canadiens would flop, and ultimately resulting in head coach Michel Therrien being fired. You see, there is a mass waiting in the weeds for the right occasion to say: “I told you so.” And fortunately for us and unfortunately for them, they are still waiting as the team is performing beyond expectations… theirs, that is.
You know why? Because in spite of their anger, Shea Weber is a candidate for the Norris Trophy. Because bringing in Kirk Muller has paid dividends. Because signing Alexander Radulov is proving to be a great move. And because the dressing room is now all pulling in one direction, regardless of the injuries the team has suffered in the first half of the season. The Montreal Canadiens are a team and they, as a team, are proving the nay-sayers wrong.
Oh everything is far from perfect, even the most loyal fan will tell you, and so will the Habs’ brass. There are things that are going well, very well as a matter of fact, and other areas needing a bit more attention. I mean, who in their right mind would have predicted that the Canadiens’ powerplay would be second in the NHL by the All-Star break, and that the team would sit seventh in the NHL in goals for per game, let alone being the fifth best team in the overall standings at this point?
Just how good are the Canadiens?
Here is a look at what the Canadiens have accomplished up until now:
Let’s now analyse this a bit closer. The powerplay, while inconsistent, is just fine. It’s the penalty kill that needs some major improvement. Not only isn’t it performing the way it had in the past few years, but the team is taking way too many minor penalties. More penalties equals more penalty kills, combined with a low success rate killing penalties means more goals against. The solution to work on? Focus on staying out of the box, particularly cutting on unnecessary penalties, and work on strategies with the players killing penalties.
The team is doing excellent at five on five, amongst the best in the NHL. Not only are their possession numbers good, but their shots attempts are up with the top teams and so is their goaltenders’ saves percentage at even strength. However, they are turning the puck over too much and that, along with the penalties they take, is a huge contributor to the shots allowed per game while impeding their time spent on offense.
If I’m the coaching staff, those are the areas I’m focusing on the most. The rest will take care of itself. Oh and to those wanting Therrien fired after every single team loss, you are not only embarrassing yourselves, but you are making all Habs’ fans look bad. Therrien is being rewarded for his work as he will be representing the Canadiens at the All-Star game, coaching the Atlantic Division’s team.
Habs acquire defenseman Nikita Nesterov
Nesterov, a 23 year-old left-handed puck moving defenseman, is joining the team while Ryan Johnston is heading back to St. John’s. The Canadiens gave up prospect Jonathan Racine and a sixth round pick in 2017 for the 5’11, 191 lbs young Russian who has 3 goals, 12 points in 35 games this season with the Lightning. He earns $750,000 this season and is a pending RFA, with arbitration rights, this summer.
This move puts the Canadiens against the salary cap and many are those who believe that this move hides another one coming within the next few days or weeks. We have been speculating on this blog that Nathan Beaulieu could be dangled to fill other holes in the line-up and that move just adds fuel to those speculations. Stay tuned.