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Montreal Canadiens 2014/2015 Campaign: Surprises of the Year

Top 5 Biggest Surprises of the Year (so far…)

While referring to the NHL standings, it appears that the Montreal Canadiens are having a very successful season thus far. In fact, they have consistently been at the top end of the Eastern Conference along with teams such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the New York Islanders (Yes…the Islanders…I’m just as confused).

Although their ranking seems impressive, it has not been all rainbows and gumdrops  for the Montreal Canadiens this year; simply diving into the numbers unveils a fairly mediocre hockey club. A struggling power play, a less than stellar goal differential, Carey Price’s sore back (from carrying the team of course)…there are many reasons why the Canadiens have statistically struggled through the year.

Nonetheless, they are a top team in the East, and they should be taken very seriously. With arguably the best goalie in the NHL, a Norris trophy defenceman, one of the league’s top snipers, and several rising stars, Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens are assembling a solid core of young players aimed at finding success for years to come. It is a very exciting time to be a Habs fan, and to express my excitement, I am highlighting some of biggest and best surprises of the year…enjoy!

5) Nathan Beaulieu’s Move to a Top 4 Role

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Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

The surprise is not that he is finally good enough to play there (he has been ready for quite some time now) but rather the fact that Michel Therrien has recognized this as well. It seems that Therrien has always been rather reluctant to promote a younger player in the place of a veteran.

Example: The likes of Moen, Bourque, Murray, Bouillon all playing over younger, faster, better players throughout the past couple years.

Nathan Beaulieu is having a great year. He moves the puck well, he is becoming more responsible with the puck in his own end, he skates like a fish swims, and he is slowly coming out of his offensive shell; jumping into the play to create scoring chances down low. His talent allows him to be a versatile defenceman which can be used in all situations, but personally I see him one day thriving on the power play with PK Subban.

He is faster, smarter, and better than Alexei Emelin, and he deserves this top 4 spot. Let’s hope Michel Therrien sticks to it for the rest of the season.

4)  PK Subban Not Making the All-star Roster

CBC screenshot

Not too much to say here. Pk Subban is tied for second in scoring among all Canadiens players, behind only Max Pacioretty, suggesting yet another finish at the top end of Montreal’s point production for the year. His numbers also suggest that he is primed for yet another top ten scoring position among all NHL blueliners.

On and off the ice, Subban radiates “all-star” quality. Although it doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, I am a little disappointed that he will not be joining fellow star Carey Price at the game.

3) Therrien Splitting up David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty

Getty Images

Spending a good portion of their respective careers together, Max and Davey have found a lot of offensive success over the years. It seemed as though the two had the type of chemistry that would make them inseparable. Michel Therrien bought into this ideology, as he refused to separate them for most of the past three years. When the line struggled, he simply changed the right winger with the hopes of sparking up the line; it seemed like every forward on the team had a crack at the position.

It was only a matter of time until David Desharnais was removed from the top line, and replaced with someone bigger and stronger, but it still came as a huge surprise to hear it was really happening. I’m sure I was not the only one who began to shed a tear of joy during the announcement of the 67-27-11 line (and also now the 67-14-11 line).

I believe that both players have benefitted from the change-up. Patches remains on the top line, getting prime offensive minutes, while David has a chance to play on the wing with other skilled centres, which frees up a spot in the middle….this leads me to my number 2 on my list.

2) Galchenyuk Playing Centre

Francois Lacasse Getty Images
Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

Galchenyuk playing centre… Galchenyuk playing centre…Galchenyuk playing centre… I could say it a thousand times and still have that giddy little school-girl feeling in my stomach. When I heard the surprising news of the change, these were my only thoughts:

At this moment, I would like to thank Marc Bergevin, Trevor Timmins, as well as the entire Montreal Canadiens scouting staff for making this warm and fuzzy feeling possible. I would also like to thank both the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Bluejackets for letting the best player in the 2012 draft go to the third selection. Last but not least, I would like to thank you Michel Therrien for pulling your head out of your ass and giving the kid a chance to play the only position he knew before getting drafted. Go Habs go!        *mic drop + casual walk off stage*

It is his natural position, but it felt like Therrien wasn’t ever going to give him a legitimate chance up the middle. Now that he is there, I don’t think we will ever see him back on the wing. Galchenyuk has excelled in his new role. He is responsible defensively, he isn’t half-bad at face-offs, and he is producing offensively at an expected rate for his first legitimate NHL venture as a centreman.

It is more than certain that Galchenyuk will struggle at times, but seeing what the kid has to offer thus far makes me, along with thousands of fans world-wide, very excited for Montreal’s future. How we have longed for a large, skilled, and physical power-centre.

1) The Struggling Power-Play

Montreal Canadiens v New Jersey Devils
Al Bello/Getty Images

This is the biggest surprise of the year. Although there always seems to be brief moments of brilliance displayed by the Canadiens PP unit, they have yet to string together a consistent scoring touch this year. How can this be? The Habs have what many would consider one of the best power-play bluelines in the NHL.

-Subban is a skilled set-up man, and has an absolute laser beam of a shot.

-Markov is still one of the best passers in the NHL. His vision and puck-moving abilities have made him a power-play specialist his entire career

-Gonchar has always been known to be a threat on the power-play, and although his play has declined over the years, he still looks like great when on the man advantage.

– Beaulieu, although relatively untested, has shown that he has what it takes to one day be a power-play specialist. He moves the puck well, he is a great skater, and he has a great shot. I hope that his increased ice-time will also translate to an increase in PP minutes.

It isn’t like the forward group is half bad either… Therrien has a fairly deep pool of talented forwards to use on the power-play. He has tried many variations of his forward corps during the man advantage, but most often he relies on his top-line of the game.

So then, what is the issue? Chemistry? Formation? Player choice? Zone entries? Bad luck? I could go in-depth and write my suggestion to fixing the power-play like so many bloggers have before me, but it seems like each fan suggestion is vastly different from the next. We cannot possibly all be correct, can we? So instead of boring you with my in-depth analysis of a possible solution to fixing the struggling power-play, I will leave you with a brief summary:

-Jiri Sekac

The Montreal Canadiens have access to all of the tools which could make them one of the best power-play units in the NHL, yet they have continually struggled throughout the entire year.   This is certainly the biggest surprise of the season (thus far!)

Honourable Mentions

-Jiri Sekac’s Play

-Sven Andrighetto’s Push for a Full-Time Position

-The Failed Malholtra Experiment


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