Last week, I threw out an invite to some of the regular mainstream followers of the Montreal Canadiens, asking them to grade the team, on a variety of aspects, at the quarter season mark.
With a busy week in the books, and another one upcoming of following the Canadiens, I did receive responses from the Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey and Radio-Canada's J-F Chaumont.
I asked them to grade the Habs, on a scale of one to ten, and threw a pair of forecast questions into the mix as well.
Note: The responses and stats provided are based after the 20th game of the season (Saturday vs. Toronto Maple Leafs).
1. Five on Five Play (Canadiens rank; 8th 1.21F/A)
2. Defense (Canadiens rank: 2nd 1.93 GA)
Hickey (8.5): "The second-best GAA in the league tells it all. Biggest surprise is that they're doing it without Markov. Subban can only improve. They have to hope 44 (Roman Hamrlik) and 6 (Jaroslav Spacek) don't wear down."
Chaumont (8): "Spacek was playing bad, at the start of the year, but he found his game with Hamrlik in the last six or seven games."
3. Power Play (Canadiens rank: 19th 16%)
Hickey (4): "A work in progress. Yannick Weber will help. But, as above, they need more from Gomez"
Chaumont (5): "The Canadiens played more than ten games with a percentage under 10, so it's impossible to give them a good grade."
4. Penalty Kill (Canadiens rank: 1st 90.5%)
Hickey (10): "Best in the league. Result of hard work and personnel who understand what to do. Pearn has done a great job with this unit."
Hickey (9.5):"Price has answered all the doubters including myself."
Chaumont (9.5): "I don't like to give a 10 because I don't think it's possible to be perfect. But Carey Price was close to perfection for the first 20 games. He played 19 games and won 12 with 4 shutouts, an GAA of 2,00 and a percentage of .932. Amazing !!!!
Hickey (9.5):"Martin has made the best use of his talent and has people buying into his system. Boring? Maybe, but they are generating shots and, most importantly, they're winning."
Chaumont (8): "The team is playing well and Jacques Martin is also doing well, but I don't like the work on the PP."
The Big Questions
With the injury to Andrei Markov: Where do you forecast the Habs over the next 20 games?
Hickey: I can see them getting 23 points over the next 20 games
Chaumont: The Habs are a good team without Markov too. I can't forecast 13 wins, but I think they will get 10 with one or two lost in OT. I will go for 10-8-2.
Are the Canadiens a legitimate Cup contender? (Yes/No/Too soon to tell?
Hickey: It's too soon to tell.
Chaumont: Too soon to tell. They are not a physical team and it's always a tough game in playoffs. If the Habs can get a good top 6 forward, they will upgrade their chances.