Despite the Montreal Canadiens six-game winning streak ending with a 5-0 loss against the Calgary Flames, they have a new found success. Much of this has to do with new head coach Claude Julien. It took a few games, but the team has started gelling under his tactics. He has led the Habs players into a hungry group of guys who want to win.
Transactions that have helped the Habs include the acquisition of a steady defenseman in Jordie Benn. Carey Price returning to superstar form is also a huge reason for their success. However, Price’s return to superstar form may have something to do with Julien’s coaching style. But it is most likely the time off he spent during the bye week that brought him back to form.
Winning doesn’t only come from the goalie. In order to win in the NHL, the team must be able to support the goalie offensively enough to win which, under Julien, they have as of late.
Claude Julien Leading Charge to Montreal Canadiens Success
Julien’s Impact on Shaw
One player who has shined particularly under Julien is Andrew Shaw. Under Michel Therrien, Shaw did not play to the best of his abilities. A new coach in the organization could be a huge reason why Shaw is finding the back of the net more often. However, with the playoffs just over a month away, this might mean that Shaw has found his playoff self.
Nonetheless, Julien deserves credit for what the 25-year-old forward has done these past few weeks. There many situations this season that Shaw was invisible under Therrien. However, his play has been taken to the level it was at during the Chicago Blackhawks playoff runs. If Shaw can continue to play this way, the Canadiens could be a dangerous opponent to face in the playoffs. Shaw won’t be the type of player that will score a lot of goals, but he will give the Habs much-needed goals when given the chance.
Julien’s Impact on Galchenyuk
Another positive impact that Julien has had on a player is Alex Galchenyuk. While Galchenyuk hasn’t spent much time on the team’s top line in Julien’s tenure, he has been used more effectively. Galchenyuk plays most of his shifts in the offensive zone giving him more possibilities to produce offensively. Julien also gives Galchenyuk slightly less ice time than Therrien did, but uses him in better situations suited to Galchenyuk’s abilities.
Galchenyuk has also been improving his defensive play and faceoffs since Julien has been put in charge. The 23-year-old’s faceoff improvement has mainly been accredited to veteran NHLers who have been training with Galchenyuk. However, Julien has stepped up to teach Galchenyuk a better two-way game thus far. With Julien at the helm, Galchenyuk should be able to develop into a better two-way player. As those things progress, Galchenyuk will get more ice time.
Carey Price is Back to Form
Price’s game was eventually going to be back to normal, after two of the worse months in his career. Price seems as if he has taken his game to yet another level. Since the bye week, Price has a .951 save percentage in eight starts. It also includes a current five-game winning streak for the Habs netminder. In those five starts, he has a .965 save percentage. Prior to the break, Price had a .878% in his last five starts under Therrien.
A major change has been on the penalty kill. Price’s 4v5 save percentage was .765 between December 1st, 2016 and Michel Therrien’s firing on February 14th, 2016. Since Julien has been on board, that 4v5 save percentage has increased to .944 in eight games started. Price has only given up one powerplay goal against in that time period. And the Habs as a team have only given up two power play goals against in 10 games.
The change from a passive diamond formation to a more aggressive box formation in the Montreal penalty kill unit has paid immediate dividends. They have greatly reduced the number of quality scoring chances against while killing penalties.
Now, this isn’t to say Therrien was a problem for Price, but rather it was fatigue that took Price’s game to below average.
With Price out of his slump and playing at a world-class level, the Canadiens have a chance to be as dangerous as anybody. The Canadiens continue to prove that they are more confident as a team with him in nets. It showed when they lost 5-0 to the Calgary Flames on Thursday with Price out with the flu.
New Identity to the Fourth Line
At the trade deadline, general manager Marc Bergevin failed to acquire a forward to help the team’s scoring woes. However, he managed to completely change the identity of the team’s fourth line by adding size and grit. Bergevin added Steve Ott, Andreas Martinsen, and Dwight King, all of which are above six feet tall. He also traded away undersized forwards, David Desharnais and Sven Andrighetto away.
The trio has allowed the team’s more skilled players to play their game in the four games that they have played. In Alexander Radulov‘s absence, King has been playing up on the second line. However, he hasn’t made a great impact.
The players that Bergevin has acquired have made a nice impact on the fourth line. Both Martinsen and Ott have brought the Canadiens a much-needed intimidation factor. It’s only a matter of time before King finds himself back down there where he plays most effectively.
Come playoff time, King could be a key asset in a playoff run, having won two Stanley cups with the Los Angeles Kings. Ott is also playing a key role in helping Galchenyuk at being better in the faceoff dot. While it wasn’t the traditional need for the Habs, Bergevin deserves some credit for his acquisitions that could bring Canadiens success.