As mentioned in the top six minutes, the Habs completed their second straight season series sweep last night. Once in awhile I think it's a good idea to sit down and think about how far this team has come from the disaster of last season.
A lot of us thought they could be a playoff team, but I doubt anyone, even Marc Bergevin, thought they would be sweeping teams and sitting at the top of the standings. Only the Chicago Blackhawks have fewer regulation losses than the Montreal Canadiens. Anaheim is tied with the Habs at 7, but every other team has at least 8, including Boston.
One of the hallmarks of the team this season that wasn't there last year is depth. Last season Louis Leblanc provided some good scoring ability as a call up, but that was essentially all there was to be had. This season we've seen sterling work from Gabriel Dumont, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi, Michael Blunden, and now Nathan Beaulieu.
Beaulieu was once again used in the defensive zone heavily, starting just 27.3% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Once again he outperformed his partner Francis Bouillon on possession, but this time instead of being in the negatives, he was the top possession defender on the team. Beaulieu went 62.1% in Fenwick on the night, and picked up his first career NHL point.
Jarred Tinordi impressed me as a call up, but I think Beaulieu's skill level is on another level. I'd like to see him stay up the rest of the year to be honest. And it seems with Beaulieu averaging over 16 minutes a night in his first two games, Therrien is comfortable with him out there. And it's no wonder, with Beaulieu going +5 in scoring chances last night.
The most impressive players of the night though, were the trio of David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, and Max Pacioretty. I mentioned last night in the top six minutes that they shot the lights out, but according to Olivier's recap, that line shredded the Canes. Max Pacioretty was a demon out there, going +11 on scoring chances on the game, 13 for, just 2 against. They finally broke through in the 3rd period, with Pacioretty scoring the 3rd and 4th goals of the game, but the line could have easily had 5 or 6. Say what you want about Justin Peters, but he was very good last night.
Also very good was Carey Price. Price likely would have registered his second straight shutout if not for Alexei Emelin bumping him into the net on the first goal. The contact prevented Price from reacting in time, and allowed Jordan Staal to score.
From then on though, it didn't really matter what the Hurricanes did, Price was a wall.
The one worry on the night was the play of Andrei Markov at even strength. He wasn't hard matched against Eric Staal's line, or even Jordan Staal's, he received 50% offensive zone starts, and he was obliterated. 22.2% Fenwick, 22.7% Corsi, -5 in scoring chances, it was another ugly game for Andrei at evens.
That this is happening with more and more frequency is beginning to worry me. Subban has taken over as the one who gets the most ice time every game, but Markov is usually still second, and it seems like he's wearing down. With this in mind, I was kind of hoping for Bergevin to make an extremely bold move and grab Jay Bouwmeester, but that option is gone. As is the option of Ladislav Smid, who recently re-signed in Edmonton. Defensemen cost a ton at the deadline, but if Raphael Diaz can't come back, I wonder if the Canadiens would be better served in paying out with second round picks for a top 4 defenseman to take some stress off of Markov than they would just adding depth for depth's sake.