The Montreal Canadiens have now played just over a quarter of the season. Having played 21 games and sitting in 24th overall with a 9-10-2 record respectively. It has been an odd start to the season for the team to say the least. While there have been some bright spots, such as the emergence of Kaiden Guhle, the team has had many issues to begin the year. Let’s take a look at how the Montreal Canadien’s first quarter of the season has played out thus far.
Montreal Canadiens Season Review
Injuries Deja Vu for Montreal
For the third season in a row, the Montreal Canadiens have been hit with the injury bug. Only two games into the season, the team lost forward Kirby Dach to a season-ending injury. Youngsters Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Arber Xhekaj currently also find themselves on the injured reserve list for the next several weeks. Veteran David Savard joined them as well as he will also be out for another few weeks. Also worth mentioning, Chris Wideman hasn’t suited up yet this year, nor does it look like he will hit the ice this season as his career may be in jeopardy due to injuries. Christian Dvorak and Kaiden Guhle also missed a few games each to begin the year.
The Canadiens organization in general has been riddled with injuries as many of their prospects as well as many in the Laval organization have also missed, or will continue to miss time due to injury. This includes fifth overall pick David Reinbacher who has since returned, as well as Emil Heineman who continues his recovery.
Many Unexpected Struggles
Another thing to sum up the Montreal Canadiens season is the struggles upfront. Many of the Montreal Canadiens players have gotten off to poor starts in the first quarter. None more so than Josh Anderson who can’t buy a goal right now. Anderson sits with an underwhelming zero goals and only two assists on the year while receiving largely top-six minutes as well as first-unit powerplay time. First-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky has also struggled to produce with only six points on the year thus far. Despite this, Slafkovsky has shown flashes of improvement and continues to grow.
One of the bigger concerns and talking points among Canadiens fans has been the play of Cole Caufield. Caufield has six goals and 17 points in 21 games as he paces the Canadiens. This may not spark concern on paper, but Caufield has been struggling mightily to produce at five-on-five with half of his goals coming in overtime. The team has separated him from Nick Suzuki and placed him on the second line with Dvorak and Slafkovsky for the past several games. This can all potentially be chalked up to Caufield coming off surgery and getting used to game action again. But nevertheless, expect him to be reunited with Suzuki if he continues to slump offensively.
One of the few bright spots to begin the year for the team has been the great unexpected play of many of the veterans. Sean Monahan despite his recent slump has been impressive offensively after returning from yet another surgery. Tanner Pearson who was acquired largely as a cap dump, has also provided some unexpected scoring. No veteran however has surprised more so than Brendan Gallagher. Gallagher’s nine points may not pop off the page. However, after a terrible pre-season that led to many assuming his career was over, he has since been playing like the Gallagher of old. He has even recently been promoted to the top line alongside the speedy Alex Newhook as well as captain Nick Suzuki, where Gallagher has not looked out of place. The big struggle for him will be remaining healthy for a full season.
The Canadiens franchise has much to look forward to in the future. However, the team’s first quarter start has been rather grim due to injuries, slumping youngsters, and overall poor play. Hopefully for the fans, the next three quarters will bring some more positivity.
Main Photo: © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports