And here we have it. The COVID shortened season is over for the Canadiens. After a gruelling 56 games, the team can finally have a bit of rest. You see, since the team has been forced to take an additional week off when Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were placed in the NHL COVID protocol, the Habs are the team that has played the most games since their return on March 30th. Their opponents were much more rested in that time, ranging from 21st to 31st in the same time span. The good news? They get a full week off without games to rest, heal and finally have quality practice time under Dominique Ducharme, something they weren’t able to get even during that week off. Further, they will now be on an equal playing field fatigue-wise when facing the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
But before we get to the playoffs, I thought it would be fun to look at the players’ accomplishments this season in spite of very difficult circumstances. And since we’re used to looking at a full 82-game season, it’s difficult to relate today’s numbers to a more normal season. For that reason, I have adjusted each player’s production (with the exception of the goalies) on an 82-game pace. And here’s what it shows…
- Most Points:
- Tyler Toffoli (69)
- Jeff Petry (63)
- Nick Suzuki (60)
- Most Goals:
- Tyler Toffoli (44)
- Brendan Gallagher (33)
- Josh Anderson (27)
- Most Assists:
- Jeff Petry (45)
- Jonathan Drouin (39)
- Nick Suzuki (38)
- Best Plus-Minus:
- Joel Edmundson (+42)
- Brendan Gallagher (+23)
- Joel Armia (+20)
- Goalies’ Stats
- Unsung Hero (Jacques Beauchamp Trophy)
- Jake Allen: He won it and it’s well deserved. With the injuries and early season’s struggles to Carey Price, Allen has played much more than anticipated, even if we knew that he would play more often than in a normal season. He has faded towards the end, much like the rest of the team, but that’s mostly due to fatigue.
- Joel Edmundson: Had I had a vote, he would have received mine. He single-handedly helped make Jeff Petry a possible nominee for the Norris Trophy, until the injury to Ben Chiarot, when the coaching staff separated the pair. It’s no coincidence that Petry wasn’t as productive without Edmundson to his left and since being reunited, Petry has played better. That’s what a good complementary player will do.
- Corey Perry: He is the Bill Masterton candidate for the Habs but to me, he’s also very much a unsung hero. He’s a leader and has brought much to the Canadiens. Few would have predicted that he would have played this much, or be on pace for 15 goals and be as efficient as he has been. He’s a guy who ups his game in the playoffs and he will be well rested.
- Most Valuable Player
- Tyler Toffoli: Signed in the off-season at a cap-friendly $4.25 million contract, I don’t think anyone, himself included, would have thought he’d be on pace for a 44 goals season. He plays in all situations, leads the team in shots, scored key goals whether it’d be at even strength, on the power play and even short-handed. He has also helped the team by playing on his off-wing in many occasions.
- Jeff Petry: With Weber having an off-season (to his standards), Petry has been the Canadiens’ most consistent defenseman in all situations. A career minus -110 player, he finished the season at plus -6 and would have played every game had Dominique Ducharme not decided to give him a rest in the last game of the season. Aren’t you happy that Marc Bergevin signed him to an extension in the off-season?
- Josh Anderson: The numbers don’t give him credit. Yes, he was on pace to match his best season of 27 goals but it’s the little things he does that matter most. He skates like the wind, he hits like a truck, he creates havoc everywhere on the ice and he’s reliable defensively. Mostly though, his work ethics is impeccable. I compared him earlier in the season to a bigger, faster and stronger Gallagher and soon after, TSN announcers did the same. He is also developing into a very good leader.
- Most improved
- Nick Suzuki: Last season, Slick Nick was on pace for 15G-32A-47 points and a minus -17 rating. This season, he was on pace for 22G-38A-60 points and a rating of minus -7. His time on the ice also jumped from 15:59 last season to 18:11 this year. He did go through a bit of a slump but he also managed to bounce back with 14 points in his last 11 games.
- Jake Evans: While we have no stats to compare from last year as this was Evans’ rookie season, we will recall that he started the season on the fourth line in Laval, to end up centering the Rocket’s top line. This year started slow, being in and out of the line-up, but we saw the progression. Like everyone else, he went though a slump and when the Canadiens traded for Eric Staal, he was the one left out. When given the opportunity, he showed that he’s not the one who should be left out of the line-up when come playoffs.
- Up and comers
- Cole Caufield: Caufield has managed four goals and an assist in his first 10 games in the NHL, including back to back game winners in overtime. In his last game, playing alongside Nick Suzuki, he managed a goal and an assist, his first multi-points game. The future is bright for the young man.
- Alexander Romanov: Incredibly hard worker, many players in the Canadian division now know to keep their head up when he’s on the ice. Only 20, some fans are wanting the Habs to rush his development by playing him on the top-4 with Weber but it is now clear that he’s not ready to face regular top competition. He will get there though.
- Jake Evans: We touched on him as one of the team’s most improved players. The only question mark is his offensive ceiling. He’s responsible defensively, good on faceoffs, has good hockey IQ and not a bad skater. If he can continue developing and contributing a bit more offensively, as he’s done in the past few games, he could be in contention with Ryan Poehling for the third line centre position with the Habs.
- Disappointing season (in no particular order)
- Jonathan Drouin: I put him here for two reasons only. His goals’ production was lacking, although his assists are totally fine. The second reason is the question marks regarding his leave. Some rumours circulating mention that he wants out of Montreal but you know what I think of rumours, so let’s not put the emphasis on that. Here’s hoping that he’s back healthy, soon.
- Phillip Danault: After reportedly rejecting a contract extension, Phil has struggled for the longest time this season. But when he finally scored his first goal of the season, his play has been on par with what can be expected of him. That is good news for the Canadiens for the playoffs as when on his game, he’s one of the NHL’s best shutdown centres and has great chemistry with Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher.
- Shea Weber: Very tough season for the Canadiens’ captain. Shorten season, playing four games a week since the end of March, we were informed that he was playing injured for a while before finally being shut down. He is back on skates and will hopefully be ready for the playoffs and if the Habs are going to have any hopes of beating the Leafs, Weber will have to be his dominant self. No, folks, he’s not finished. He has plenty of good hockey left in him.
- Carey Price: Another key veteran that the Habs will need to be at his best for playoffs. While Allen has done a good job when called upon, he’s no Carey Price, who is the most feared goalie by NHL players year in, year out, according the the NHLPA polls. We saw in last year’s playoffs what he can do when well rested.
- Paul Byron: Very disappointing and slow start by Ti-Paul this year. But since coming back from injury, he has been very good once again. When healthy and when he has his legs, his biggest attribute, he is a force and a key component on the Canadiens.
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi: Some like blaming the coaching staff, others point the finger at Bergevin for selecting him third overall. The fact is that he’s only 20 years old and the team knew that he was a few years away from being dominant in the NHL. KK needs to work on a quicker release when shooting, and on shooting more.
- Joel Armia: Slowed down by injuries and let down by the NHL Player Safety by allowing opponents to target his head, Armia has had dominant games and others when he’s been invisible. Consistency is lacking in his game but when he’s on, there are few players better than him in puck retrieval and protection.
- Artturi Lehkonen: Much like Armia, Lehky suffers from a lack of consistency. But he’s definitely one of the team’s hardest worker out there and you can always count on him defensively and to be a physical force. He seems to have developed great chemistry with Byron and Evans and it will be interesting if Dominique Ducharme keeps them together for playoffs.
- Ben Chiarot: His year is a tale of two seasons. Prior to breaking his hand in a fight, he was struggling and he certainly didn’t help Weber look better. But since coming back well rested, he seems to be back to his old self. We will likely see him and the captain back together playing against the Matthews line in the playoffs… with means bruises all over for the Leafs.
We will get back soon with a breakdown of the Canadiens vs Maple Leafs series, which promises to be very interesting. While few give the Habs any chances, we will look at how Montreal matches up and the keys to have success against Toronto. In the meantime, much like the players, enjoy the break and let’s try to all pull together in rallying behind our favourite team. Go Habs Go!