If you just looked at this Montreal Canadiens roster in its current shape, without its starting goalie, and two rookie defenders in the top four, with a mishmash of AHL call-ups, you’d assume they were getting blown out in every single game.
Now imagine I tell you that this team, being led by incredible performances from Antti Niemi and Charlie Lindgren, has points in seven straight games. This includes Niemi stopping 48 out of 50 shots he faced against a high-flying Boston Bruins team on Saturday night.
They haven’t always been the better team in some of these games, but in the end there’s a lot more positivity coming out of them than earlier in the year. That alone is worth highlighting right now in a season that has been a major drag.
Obviously, the main highlight is the redemption of Niemi, who is almost single-handedly stealing games for the Habs. He came in with a save percentage that was so low it hit the core of the earth, but since then he’s posted a .931 save percentage in his time with the Habs, including three games with a mark of .960 or above in his last four starts. Not bad for a guy who looked to be on his way out of the league after being waived by the Florida Panthers.
On defence, Jeff Petry looks like a brand new player, flying up ice with the puck, and jumping up in plays like he’s a forward. He’s been rewarded by hitting new career highs in goals and points. Since coming back from his injury, Noah Juulsen has gone from lighter AHL minutes, to the top pair in Laval, to an NHL recall, to playing nearly every situation for Claude Julien.
Sure they’re hurting their chances to get Rasmus Dahlin, but given the utterly hopeless nature of the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres right now, the Canadiens were never really in the running to finish last and get the 18% chance of landing the Swedish defenceman that that position brings. Even the worst teams would have to be extremely lucky to grab that first overall pick.
Discovering the quality of ther prospect pool and finding strategies that work now with no risk towards harming a playoff position is the best thing the Habs can do right now. Next year probably won’t feature so many injuries, nor such terrible runs of luck. Adding in a return to form for several players, in addition to the players starring this year, could yield some fun results for fans.
Points in seven consecutive games is an impressive feat, especially when considering who is the driving force behind much of it. So we should sit back and enjoy instead of worrying about a few percentage points, because there hasn’t been much else worth celebrating this season.