Habs on Fire!
by Adam Wiltzer
October 22, 2015 | Sports
The Montreal Canadiens remain undefeated after a dominating performance over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
In 106 years of hockey, the Habs have never started a season with six consecutive wins. After a relatively quiet off-season by Marc Bergevin and his front office, not many would have expected such a hot start by the bleu-blanc-rouge. The only way most expected the Canadiens to start off so well would be by Price pulling off some of his usual magic. It’s not to say that Price hasn’t been phenomenal thus far (posting a 1.20 GAA, 0.957 SV% and a shutout in his first five starts), but the whole team has been impressive.
Anyone who followed hockey last year knew about the Canadiens offensive woes, and everyone expected to see them carry into this year. That hasn’t seemed to be the case so far. We’ve seen the expected steady output from top liners like Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec, posting 11 points between them, but the biggest surprise comes from the third line. Lead by David Desharnais, the Canadiens third line shares 10 points over the first six games. Out of the 10 goals that weren’t scored by our first line, 4 of those we’re scored by our third. This unprecedented offensive burst from our lower lines shows depth that the Habs simply didn’t have last year.
Another impressive statistic is the goal differential posted so far by our beloved Club de Hockey de Montréal. A + 13! 20 goals for, with only seven against, averaging just over 3 goals a game. Last year, the Canadiens averaged 2.7 goals a game. The offensive explosion isn’t one that was expected by a team who’s biggest offensive acquisition seemed to be the bargain-hut Alexander Semin, but somehow, the team has clicked and figured out a way to put the puck in the back of the net.
It’s also possible to attribute some of the new-found offensive talent to the chemistry between lines. Alex Galchenyuk is finally sinking into his natural center-man role, winged by Lars Eller and Alexander Semin. Some of the offensive pressure has been moved off David Desharnais as he gets more comfortable on a third line position. Therrien has also seemed to be comfortable with a top line; Captain Max Pacioretty and bad-boy Brendan Gallagher, winging one of the better two way centers in the league: Tomas Plekanec. The lines just seem to click. Passes are sharper and plays are smoother. Gone are the days of Therrien switching around the lines every game. The players roles aren’t switched between grinder, goal scorers or intimidators every game. They can go into practice, knowing what they’re supposed to do, so they can fine tune their play, as opposed to learning whole new game styles.
On top of the goal scoring, the Habs defense has been on point too. I can go out on a limb and say that I believe the Canadiens have the best top 6 defensmen in the league. P.K Subban, always a Norris contender, alongside trustworthy veteran Andrei Markov. Hard hitting Emelin with offensive talent Jeff Petry, and Tom Gilbert siding the up-and-coming Nathan Beaulieu. These guys have been stopping offensive plays in their track, while creating offense of their own. Being able to pinch in the offensive zone and get back in time to stop a rush is a rare quality to have, but the Habs have three men who do it regularly, between Subban, Petry and Beaulieu (and sometimes Markov). Emelin and Gilbert stay at home and solidly cover the play, and it leads to a wonderful chemistry on our back end.
The last shoutout for the first couple weeks of success from the Habs goes to the goalies. Yes, Price has been phenomenal as usual, but it seems like we may have a trustworthy back up this year. Mike Condon showed some awesome potential in his NHL debut. Despite one unfortunate goal, Condon was all over the Senators, making some very impressive stops. If the Habs have a trustworthy second goalie that we can use to give Price some rest this season, he might be even more magical than last year! And we can win some games when he’s not playing!
So yes, the Habs have been great so far, but let’s not get our hopes up. As much of a Habs fan as I am, I’m not going to get a 2015-2016 Stanley Cup champions tattoo just yet. Just remember last year's Maple Leafs and keep in mind their hot start. All I can say, is that if the Canadiens manage to keep up what they’ve been doing so far, 1993 may not be the year to reminisce about anymore.