Canadiens Review, 6 Games In

Early on Montreal could perhaps be called a pleasant surprise. They have looked much better than most people expected, myself included. Here is my analysis of the Habs six game into the season…

A quick review of what ahs happened so far. Montreal opened the season in Carolina with an impressive 3-2 overtime win in which they could have won by several goals if not for stupid penalties. Saku Koivu netted 2 goals including the game winner en route to the win.
Montreal then travelled to Toronto where they lost 4-3 in overtime in a game that they should have put away in the third. Several late game PP opportunities were wasted and Toronto made them pay for their inability to convert.

The third game, against Pittsburgh was Carey Price’s anticipated debut in which he put up a very solid performance, helping the Habs, who dominated most of the game, come away with a 3-2 win.
Montreal’s home opener was an awful performance and without Huet the game could have gotten out of hand. Huet let in only 2 goals on more than 35 shots and the Canes added an empty netter to win 3-1.
Montreal then played Florida and completely owned the game, yet again an inability to convert and a hot goaltender were the cause of Montreal losing 2-1 in a shootout after leading for 57 minutes and letting in the tying goal with 10 seconds remaining.

The Habs rolled in to Ottawa and the result was a predictable loss, but at 4-3 Montreal again kept it close and were victims of Ottawa’s potent offense in the end.

Buffalo then came to town and a few lucky bounces and olid penalty killing late in the game helped the Habs net the empty netter and win 4-2.

Finally Montreal played the streaking Bruins and were finally able to get production from all four lines en route to a strong 6-1 win.

From these performances one will notice that every single game has been decided in either the last minute or overtime, meaning Montreal could easily have been 5-0 or 0-5 going into Monday night. Some argue that Montreal was victim of poor officiating in several games, yet in my opinion it is VERY rare that the officiating decides a game, and with the exception of Kerry Fraser referees will make good and bad decision on both sides. Montreal does need to be praised for showing character and staying in each one of their games. Whether it has been thanks to team defense of goaltending, or scoring they have managed to keep every game close and winnable.

Obviously this has bailed out the Habs several time this season. Huet has been either stellar or solid in every start this season. And with the exception of the Toronto game has not allowed more than 2 goals in a game. (2, 4, 2, 1, 2, 1), while Carey Price had different performances in his first two starts, allowing 1 goal against Pittsburgh and then 4 goals against Ottawa. What makes the goaltending story that much more amazing is that Montreal has been awful in terms of shots against, and are in the bottom 10 in that category. Yet that stat can be misleading…

To me the Habs’ team defense ahs really been important. Although they have let up quite a few shots, many of these shots have beeen coming from the boards and have really not been quality chances. With the exception of the Carolina game and a few times in the Ottawa game the Habs have been quite impressive in terms of scoring chances. They have not left the gaoltender out to dry very often, and Mark Streit, Francis Bouillon and Roman Hamrlik have been great defensively.

Really Montreal’s only cause for concern. The top lines have really not been strong 5 on 5 with the exception of last night in Boston. The problem is not generating chances, but converting chances. The top line of Higgins, Koivu, and Ryder are really the suspects in this case, and need to start converting if they do not want to find themselves in the fans and Carbo’s dog house. Kovi has been an awesome surprise, and this is the way Montreal needs him to produce all year long. Pleks has been great too, and the 3rd and 4th lines have both been great defensively and at playing their role on the team. It’s up to the top lines ot convert if the habs really want to be succesful.