With an 8-2-0 start to the season, there’s no shortage of positives to go around on the Habs. With all the winning, we will refrain from nit picking (though we could) for the time being (we know we’ll get our chances later). Instead, we’ll just jump on the happy train and ask our panelists: What has been the best part of Montreal’s successful start?
Kyle (@kyleroussel) – I’m split on this one. I can’t decide whether I am more pleased to see the unshackling of Tomas Plekanec as an offensive guy, or the rise of Alex Galchenyuk. Both players look reborn, and it’s damn refreshing in both cases. From a team perspective, I’m happy that the team is 7-1 (Editor’s note, the team was 7-1-0 when this was written, obviously…) and hasn’t played consistently great hockey. They fall behind after sleeping through large swathes of time, but always turn it on when it counts. I know they can’t keep up this pace even if their overall play improves, but process before results and all that.
Steph (@stephdarwish) – I love that the hockey is exciting to watch! It’s go go go.
Like Kyle, I am also LOVING watching Plekanec and Galchenyuk, with the latter consistently making moves, holding on to the puck, and having fun.
…and lastly I can’t decided if my favourite play thus far was Subban coming out of the box, swooping behind the net with the defender crashing behind him and then having about 45 minutes alone with the goalie before scoring, OR seeing Plekanec and Pacioretty with a 2 on 0, in the NHL, on a PK.
Sean (@TheONeillFactor) – The funny thing about the Habs hot-start is that there have actually been plenty of nits to pick – Rene Bourque is still Rene Bourque, Lars Eller might just always be a “flashes” guy for the rest of his career, the team’s goal differential isn’t fantastic…and yet here we are.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of positives as well, perhaps most notably the emergence of Alex Galchenyuk as a legitimate top-six forward. The third-year breakout effect has been well-documented, and it looks as if the hyper-talented Galchenyuk (who is STILL ONLY TWENTY FRIGGIN YEARS OLD BY THE WAY) is following a similar career trajectory to other franchise forwards who took the leap in year three.
Galchenyuk’s emergence, of course, would not have been possible without the longer leash provided by Michelle Therrien – Therrien, in fact, has been one of the other pleasant surprises of the early season. He’s still not a master technician, but his willingness to let Subban, Galchenyuk, and others thrive instead of nailing them to the bench in favour of grit and character and globbidygloock has been a welcome shift in both tone and substance.
Zach (@ZachVanasse) – Where to begin? The wins over quality competition have been nice (Boston, New York, Detroit, Washington and even Philadelphia: all with “winning” records through the first couple weeks) and given some legitimacy to the red hot start.
The highlight reel plays from Pleks & Patches, PK, and several Price saves have been a hell of a lot of fun.
However, as mentioned, the emergence of Galchenyuk is probably the lead positive. If Galchenyuk reaches his full potential… well let’s just say I expect really good things if he is the Real Deal.
While we’re on the topic of breakout seasons though, while it would be hard to claim a guy who scored 39 goals last season is “breaking out” this season, Pacioretty’s play has been at another level thus far (except against Calgary, blech). He’s mastering the 200-foot game now and teaming him with Plekanec on the penalty kill makes MTL a real threat to go the other way. Lundqvist is going to be having nightmares about that 2-on-0 for years. Poor guy.
Damon (@DTA23) – For me, the best part has been the fact that the games have been entertaining. The regular season can sometimes seem interminable but the Habs brand of hockey has been really entertaining. As a fan, all you can really ask for is that sense that your team is always in any game they play in. With their “ability” to come back from behind the Habs are providing that feeling. I give Desharnais a hard time about his inability to pul the trigger on scoring chances but even he isn’t drawing my ire too much yet.
All that being said, a pile of wins hides a lot of flaws. So I say let’s keep a level head and not get too ecstatic because, just like I call for perspective during a slump, I’ll call for the same thing during this hot streak.