The Habs have had their fair share of ups and downs throughout the 2023/24 season.
Albeit just a handful of points out of a playoff spot, the club has had some glaring issues they still need to correct before pushing for consistent contention.
Despite these issues, some players have stood up to keep the team afloat during difficult times.
Overcoming Habs’ poor team defence
The Habs’ woes can mainly be owed to their defensive frailties as they have conceded more goals than most teams across the entire NHL, with the Canadiens’ net having been found on 89 occasions already this season.
The team is now seen as a massive outsider to reach the playoffs across all bookies in sports betting in Canada. For example, bet365 offers the Habs at +1500 suggesting their campaign will most likely culminate at the end of the regular season.
Despite the teams’ position in the lower end of the Atlantic Division, and the playoffs looking like nothing more than a huge longshot for the Canadiens, some players have stood out as of late to maintain a competitive club.
Sean Monahan has been ever-present in the Habs’ regular struggles and rare successes this season. He played in all of the 25 opening games and was the top goal-scorer following that period with eight goals, and he also added seven assists.
Playing in all situations, Monahan has been a key component of the team, as he looks to stay healthy and get back to form before a very important free agency period in the summer of 2024.
With the major injury to Kirby Dach, Monahan has been one of the team’s most important players. His regular scoring and playmaking are some of the main reasons that the Canadiens still cling to some hope of turning around their form and reaching the playoffs.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 5, 2023
Monahan’s quality has never been in doubt throughout his career, but he has regularly struggled with injuries especially since he entered his veteran years. This season though, his ability to maintain his and put up consistent performances has cast a rare bright spark on a dismal few months for the huge NHL franchise.
The emergence of Juraj Slafkovsky in the month of November has been a welcomed sight for the organization and it’s fans.
Improved implication, quicker and more effective with the puck on his stick and finally using his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame to his advantage have helped him up his game in a big way.
Putting up five points in seven games in November, Slafkovsky has now forced his way onto the top line and looks like he belongs.
He may not be blowing up the boxscore, but improved habits and tendencies, such as going hard to the net, are helping him get more offensive chances on a regular basis; chances he’ll start to convert on as he continues to improve his timing.
Now looking to get top-line and powerplay minutes for an extended period of time, Slafkovsky will have the opportunity to grow his game even further.
Having him reach another gear or two would be a massive win for the success of the Habs rebuild, and could provide fans with some much-needed excitement.
Very good Slafkovsky.
More of this. pic.twitter.com/QIbTlcYmLv
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) December 5, 2023
Sam Montembeault is another consistent performer who has mitigated the impacts of the Habs’ lackluster defensive play.
With the frequent turnovers that the Canadiens give up, anybody other than a top-level stopper would struggle to keep the Habs in any game. Fellow goaltenders Cayden Primeau and Jake Allen have had difficulty finding consistency behind one of the youngest teams in the NHL.
Despite the inexperienced lineup playing in front of him, Montembeault has been stellar. In 11 appearances so far this season he has averaged a save percentage of .913% while being one of the most clutch goaltenders in the NHL at even strength.
His high-level performances in 2023/24 have been recognized in the form of a new Habs contract.
Canadiens sign Sam Montembeault to a 3 year $3.15M AAV extension ✍️ pic.twitter.com/GCad0C46S9
— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) December 1, 2023
The Canadiens’ position in their division may suggest that the entire team has simply underperformed in the opening months of the NHL table. However, some players have regularly performed despite the team’s defensive struggles, and failure to secure more goals.
The team will be massively helped by the consistent security Montembeault has proved to offer between the pipes, while Monahan helps support Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield as they attempt to take their offensive impact on the powerplay.
The season is still quite young, but there’s clearly some work to do.