Winning consecutive games in the NHL is not easy. The league’s talent is so diluted and with the salary cap in place, the parity is tighter than ever. Any team can beat any opponent on any given night. When a team goes six games without a loss in regulation, it’s a good feat. If they do it to start the season, without a proper training camp and exhibition games, it’s impressive. When it’s done by a team that finished 24th overall the previous season, it becomes an eye opener. Doing it all on the road, it’s rather astonishing.
With a 4-0-2 record, that’s what the Montreal Canadiens did to start their 2021 season. Because of it, the Habs sit atop the NHL’s standings, returning home after a trip out west with 10 out of a possible 12 points. Further, they are one of only five teams without a loss in regulation to start the season. The other teams have all played fewer games than the Canadiens and have also all played at least one game at home.
The Canadiens form one of the top offensive team so far this early in the season. They have improved their powerplay and aside from one horrible game, their penalty kill also looks better. Further, the Canadiens faced two of the league’s most dangerous powerplays for a combined 5 games in Edmonton and Vancouver. Here’s where the team ranks in several team categories:
- 1st in points with 10
- 1st in points percentage at .833
- 1st in goals’ differential at +11
- 3rd in goals for per game played (DAL 1 GP and FLA 2 GP are ahead)
- 1st in shots per game (35.5)
- 5th in shooting percentage (13.6%) with DAL (1 GP) and FLA (2 GP) are ahead
- 7th in fewest shots against per game (27.5)
- 11th in powerplay percentage at 26.1%
- 5th in SAT%
- 4th in Hits/60
- 7th in Blocked Shots/60
- 6th in fewest giveaways/60
This version of the Montreal Canadiens is bigger, nastier, and much deeper than any formation in the past several years.
One key area where the Canadiens will need to improve is in the faceoffs’ dot. Phillip Danault is the only one sitting at over 50% and the Habs start without the puck way too often. It has particularly been hurtful to the team on faceoffs in their own zone. The young centres are playing great hockey. They simply need to gain experience and win at least half their faceoffs.
For a team to do well, you need individuals performing at the level that’s expect from them. During this six-game season starting road trip, all 19 players who were utilized in the lineup managed at least one point.
Carey Price was a bit inconsistent to start the season. He made some great saves but he also allowed several goals on few shots. Same goes for his backup, Jake Allen. Price’s saves percentage sits at .893 with a 3.14 goals’ against average. Allen had two starts in which in managed a .907 saves percentage and a 2.01 goals against average. This will improve as the season moves along. Goalies need to see game action to get their bearings and with a short camp with no exhibition, they didn’t get that luxury this season.
Only Kyle Connor (WPG) is ahead of Tyler Toffoli in the NHL’s scoring race. The former Kings and Canucks only had one assist in his first three games against Toronto and Edmonton, but he lit his former team with five goals and two assists in three games in Vancouver.
Jeff Petry leads all defensemen in the NHL with seven points in his first six games. He too had a good time against his former team, scoring two goals and adding an assist in Edmonton. And for a guy known for being at the short end of the plus-minus, he currently sits at plus -9, the best on the Habs’ roster. Perhaps his new defense partner has something to do with it?
Jonathan Drouin (1g-5A), Nick Suzuki (2G-4A), Tomas Tatar (3G-3A) and Joel Armia (2G-3A) are at a point per game so far in the season. Shea Weber (1G-3A), Brendan Gallagher (2G-2A) and Josh Anderson (3G-1A) have four points in six games so far.
On defense, rookie Alexander Romanov has really impressed so far this season. Playing with confidence and composure usually not found in young players at that position, Romanov is being trusted by coach Claude Julien and averages 19:05 minutes of ice time per game.
After a sluggish first game, Joel Edmundson didn’t take long to step up his game while learning the system and establishing chemistry with his teammates. He sits at plus -8, second on the team to only Petry, his regular defense partner. He might be the reason why Petry has such a good start as Edmundson’s experience and defensive ability allows the offensive-minded defenseman to take more risks. Further, Edmundson won a unanimous decision when he dropped the gloves against Tyler Myers of the Canucks, who had taken Joel Armia out of the previous game with a very questionable hit to the head that the NHL Player Safety deemed unwarranted of suspension.
The Canadiens are traveling back to Montreal today (Sunday) and have the day off on Monday, before returning to practice on Tuesday. They face the Calgary Flames at home on Thursday and Saturday. Go Habs Go!