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Canadiens Top 3 Things To Watch In Second Half Of Season



Canadiens defenceman arber xhekaj

There’s no doubt the Montreal Canadiens are in the midst of one of their most difficult stretches of the season.

Not only are they missing important players such as Cole Caufield, Kaiden Guhle, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Sean Monahan, among others, but they also happen to have the most difficult strength of schedule in the NHL.

But adversity breeds opportunity.

Rocket Line

Powered by three players who have spent a significant portion of their careers with the Laval Rocket, the Canadiens upset the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, providing some much-needed excitement for the fans using their hard-earned money to watch a depleted team that has no chance of making the playoffs.

What’s more, they produced the type of underlying numbers you’d never expect from a hastily assembled fourth line.

The Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Alex Belzile, and Michael Pezzetta line controlled an impressive 59 percent of the shots during their shifts, not to mention 66 percent of the high-danger chances.

To put their performance in a better context, without the Rocket Line on the ice, the Canadiens only managed to control a little over 30 percent of the shots and 33 percent of the high-danger chances.

What’s more, the call-ups almost spent half their shifts facing Auston Matthews and company, which was quite the juxtaposition in talent, but also effort.

What they lacked in pure skill they made up with a great work ethic, and that’s exactly what they’ll need to continue doing if they’re to earn a job in the NHL.

The multiple injuries were unfortunate, but it may just allow players like Harvey-Pinard, and even Jesse Ylonen, to prove their worth.


Sam’s Club

No one expected Samuel Montembeault to take charge of the goaltending situation this season, and while some may point to Montembeault as one of the main reasons the Canadiens aren’t lower in the standings, which will have an impact at the Draft, there’s a very important silver lining to be found.

Montembeault is showing the type of numbers that suggest he could become a bonafide starter in the NHL.

He’s currently sporting a .922 save percentage at 5v5, with an expected goals raw total of 49. And yet, Montembeault has only allowed 40 goals, meaning he’s saved 9 additional goals over the league average.

That number jumps to 12.5 in all situations, indicative of Montembeault’s consistency this season.

Seeing as he’s in the first season of his two-year, $1 million AAV contract, not only do the Canadiens have the opportunity to see what Montembeault can do with a heavier workload, it gives the team a longer grace period to re-stock the goaltender prospect cupboard.

And with Jake Allen’s injury, it could also lead to an opportunity for Cayden Primeau, who happens to be in the same situation as Montembeault was three years ago.

If Montembeault continues his strong play and evolves into a legitimate starter, the Canadiens will have solved a significant organizational problem at an incredible discount.

Rookie Blues

With the NHL trade deadline quickly approaching and several Canadiens veterans expected to be moved, things will get even more difficult for the many rookie defencemen populating the blueline.

Not only due to the quality of their teammates and the overall level of competition, but also due to the grind that comes with a full NHL season.

Most players admit it took several years for their bodies to adjust, and in many cases, we see a downtick in performance during a rookie season.

Can Jordan Harris, Jonathan Kovacevic, Arber Xhekaj, Justin Barron, and Kaiden Guhle maintain their surprising level of play?

It’s the epitome of a baptism by fire, but if they can hold the fort to a reasonable degree, it will go a long way in projecting their overall potential in the NHL, which will guide Kent Hughes as he continues to build a roster that will hopefully compete in a few years.

All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick.

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The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is the draft lottery. Please god, Bedard!!! Next in line is the trade deadline. Who goes? What do we get in return? The draft is also going to be a highlight of this season for me. The one other thing that has my interest is the Jayden Struble situation. Will he sign or not when his NCAA career ends this spring? Will we see him in a Habs jersey before season’s end? What about any of the prospects in junior hockey when their season’s and junior careers end? Will any of them get a taste with the big boys? Although the remainder of the NHL season is likely to be nightmarish due to all the injuries, there’s plenty to look forward to with the right mindset. Hopefully media and fans can take a chill pill and put things in perspective as it potentially gets ugly the rest of the way. Focus your attention on all the good stuff coming and ignore the losses as they likely pile up. Greener pastures lie ahead. Embrace it. And, while you’re at it, make whatever deal with the devil you can to swing the Bedard sweepstakes into our favour. 😁

Robert Lee

We have an abundance of defensive prospects which is a good thing because we can afford to let them develop, keep the best and have trade material. It’s a good plan to be. Let’s hope we can continue to upgrade the farm team because that’ll a source of strength for us


Kayden Guhle is injured. How do you not know this?

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