Seven. That’s the magic number for the Montreal Canadiens. Seven Montreal Canadiens injuries. Seven players in their lineup who started the season in the AHL with the St. John’s IceCaps. And yet, there are seven teams below them in the Atlantic Division standings. And unlike the 1995 film Seven, the Habs season is far from a horror nearly at the midway point.
Montreal Canadiens Injuries Not Hurting Team
The Canadiens started losing players to injuries at a pretty astonishing rate in early December. Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais went down with knee injuries in games on December 4 and 6, respectively. Greg Pateryn fractured his ankle while blocking a shot the same game in which Desharnais got hurt. The following week, a collision with Torey Krug put Andrew Shaw out of action, and Andrei Markov received a lower-body injury two games later.
By the Christmas break, the Canadiens had five players out, and two more joined them in last Wednesday’s game against the Dallas Stars. Brendan Gallagher will miss the next eight weeks after a Shea Weber slap shot hit him in the hand. And finally, Paul Byron is day-to-day after a thunderous Patrick Sharp hit.
Valuable Players Out, But Still Score in Bunches
These injuries are to valuable players. They have combined for 39 goals and 114 points, and despite this, the Canadiens remain fourth in the league for scoring with 118 goals. Even though they have the ninth-best record of 8-3-3 over the past month, they still scored the third-most goals over that stretch with 48.
Think that Carey Price is carrying the team? The Habs aren’t even in the top-ten teams for least goals against per game in the past month. Price is 6-2-3 with subpar .905 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average since December 8.
When any team has seven players injured, many would say .500-level hockey is acceptable. The Canadiens are playing that with eight wins in the past 14 games, but that includes three overtime losses.
Compared to last season when the injury bug hit, and the Habs went on a downward freefall, these Canadiens have depth and the ability to play as a team. There is a next-man-up philosophy to their depth, but their leaders continue to produce when they need.
Pacioretty Playing Like a True Captain
The best player in the past month for the Montreal Canadiens is undoubtedly captain Max Pacioretty. After playing through November with a broken foot, Pacioretty began December with only five goals and 15 points through 24 games. He broke out with a two-goal game against the LA Kings in early December. He scored four more against the Colorado Avalanche a week later. He’s been on fire with 14 goals and 19 points in the last 16 games.
The past three Habs wins have shown why they have been winning through injuries, their leader is stepping up. Against the Florida Panthers, Pacioretty tied the game in the second period, before assisting on the overtime goal. In their first game back from the New Years break, he scored another overtime goal on the road against the Nashville Predators. And against the Dallas Stars, already with Byron and Gallagher out, Pacioretty broke a tie to temporarily give the Habs a third-period lead, before notching his second overtime winner in as many nights.
He also scored 20 seconds into Saturday night’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Jeff Petry, although he isn’t an alternate captain, has also stepped up big. Since Markov’s injury, Petry is playing 24 minutes per game. He has eight points in the nine games since. He also has 12 points in the past 13 games, despite having 9 in his first 26 games.
Shea Weber is also seeing a lot of ice time without Markov, skating for 26 minutes/game. And after a slump in the first half of December, Weber also has eight points in the past nine games, including four power-play points.
Alexander Radulov also went through a mini-slump in mid-December, but has bounced back. He’s riding a six-game point streak in which he has four goals and four assists. He should be getting more top-line minutes with four top-six forwards out, so he needs to continue his hot play.
Lots of Positives
The Canadiens haven’t been playing their best hockey, but they are getting the job done. With seven Montreal Canadiens injuries, it’s hard to play the way they were in October when they went 8-0-1. But 8-3-3 is good for a team who couldn’t find wins with injuries last season, so there are a lot of positives.
Even with seven Montreal Canadiens injuries, there are seven teams below them in the Atlantic Division standings. Not too bad after all.