The Montreal Canadiens have surprised this year, thanks in large part to their top line, but there are few other names that deserve recognition.
With Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach leading the charge for the Canadiens this season, it’s easy to focus on them as the main contributors to the club’s success at the quarter-mark of the season.
The team has shot out of the gate with an 11-9-1 record through 21 games this season, which isn’t yet playoff-worthy, but certainly a notch or two above what many believed the Canadiens would accomplish this season.
Although the top line has been essential in that process, there are at least three other names that also warrant some well-deserved praise, as they’ve been crucial for the Canadiens’ resurgence as of late.
After a difficult season mired in unlucky bounces, terrible team play and lingering injuries, Samuel Montembeault has bounced back this season in a big way.
In eight games for the Canadiens, the 26-year-old has impressed with a 0.924 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average. Those numbers helped him secure a 5-2-1 record during that time, and recently got him starts in consecutive games for the first time this season.
Even when Montembeault loses, he does it in style; keeping his team in the game until the very end and battling for the puck during every presence on the ice.
The Canadiens would likely have six or eight points less in the standings if Dikembe had played even remotely close to the type of goaltending the Canadiens had last season; a sign of positive things to come for the Quebec native.
What the hell is Samuel Montembeault ON lately? pic.twitter.com/SgOdcXytK9
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) November 25, 2022
Nobody knew what to expect when it was announced that the Montreal Canadiens were acquiring Sean Monahan from the Calgary Flames; it seemed everyone was more focused on Calgary’s 1st round pick and the plethora of conditions attached to it.
Monahan has quickly shed the label of “Cap Dump” and has quickly become an unsung hero for the Canadiens during this season. He’s been able to immerse himself rather quickly within the fabric of the team and has emerged as the club’s No.2 centre in that process, with Dach having a prolonged stint on the top line.
Monahan’s strong two-way game, ease in the faceoff circle and return to offensive form have been an asset for the team so far this season. His six goals and eight assists rank him fourth on the team in points, behind the Canadiens’ top trio.
There is debate as to whether he will be flipped at the NHL Trade Deadline to recoup even more assets for this team in transition, but, in the meantime, he’s been a key part of the team’s success early on this season.
Sean Monahan goes 1v3 and gets his fourth goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/ZmE9KznC5K
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 23, 2022
Kaiden Guhle has jumped out of the gate this season and has simply taken on the role of No.1 defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens, whether they like it or not.
The 20-year-old rearguard has shown exceptional composure and has been tasked with playing against the best players in the NHL right off the bat and hasn’t looked out of place at all.
He’s also shown some surprisingly good offensive numbers to start the season, collecting a goal and seven assists through 21 games so far this season, tied for the lead amongst Canadiens defencemen with David Savard.
Guhle’s averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game so far this season, thanks in large pto art to the absences of Joel Edmundson and Mike Matheson due injuries.
He’s grown after almost every game he’s played and shows no signs of slowing down as of yet. It may not be sustainable through the entirety of the current season, but it’s an excellent sign of things to come.
Kaiden Guhle with a picture perfect set up for Juraj Slafkovsky's third goal of the year! pic.twitter.com/EqaucoIrrq
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 6, 2022
Honourable Menmore: Arber Xhekaj
Everytime you count Arber Xhekaj out, he finds a way to make himself even moree valuable for this team.
When management was worried he was fighting too much, Xhekaj showed he has some offensive ability by scoring three goals.
When it was deemed that there were too many defensive-minded defenders on the Canadiens, Xhekaj showed he could help carry a power play wave.
At every junction this season, he continues to show positive signs and, even if he is eventually sent for a stint to the Laval Rocket at some point this season, he’s made his mark early-on this year.
Never bench Arber Xhekaj again.
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) November 24, 2022