By J.D. Lagrange, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

OutoftheRedWhiteBlue

PENTICTON, BC. — Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as the team is having its best start to a season in its long history. Feel free to post your comments as they are always welcomed.

1- Fans and media are trying to figure out what is more impressive: the team’s record to start this season or the offensive output thus far. Not only have the Canadiens won their first nine games heading into Vancouver, but they are a whooping plus – 23, having scored 35 goals this season and only allowing 12, best in the NHL in both categories!

2- Talking to some fans of other teams, they are a bit shocked to see Carey Price starting the season where he left off last year, perhaps even better. Most anticipated that he would need a few weeks to get back in the groove but it hasn’t be the case at all. He does have an improved defense in front of him and most times, he doesn’t have to worry about second and third chances as they are quick to get the puck out of their zone, something that Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock pointed out after their 3-0 loss to Montreal.

3- So far this season, the Habs seem to have found a true first line, or one that produces like it for the time being. In the team’s first nine games, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher have produced 16 goals, added 14 assists for 30 points and have a combined plus – 31 differential. Whether or not they can keep that pace remains to be seen, but those are encouraging news for a team looking for offensive improvement over the last couple of seasons.

4- From the back end, no need to look further than the pairing of veteran Andrei Markov and Norris caliber P.K. Subban who both help pinch in offensively, combining with 20 points in those nine games so far, with a differential of plus – 22. It is interesting to see that both have one goal, nine assists and are plus – 11. The only difference is that Subban averages two more minutes of ice time per game, which is good for the Russian defenseman.

5- The play of the second pairing of Alexei Emelin and Jeff Petry has a lot to do with the Canadiens’ success so far. According to many around the team, Emelin is perhaps the early favourite as the team’s unsung hero and Petry, with his great skating ability and first passes out of the zone, has a lot to do with it. Those two give some quality minutes to Michel Therrien’s team and are no liabilities when on the ice against the opposition’s top lines, especially on the road when Therrien doesn’t have the last change.

6- It is early but so far, Alex Galchenyuk is proving that he’s ready to take on the role of centreman in the NHL. His great vision of the ice allows him to dish out great passes to his teammates and opponents must respect his great shot. Perhaps what’s most surprising so far is that Galchenyuk is leading the team in faceoffs’ percentage with a 53.1% success rate.

Galchenyuk, Eller, Semin Celebrate a goal (Photo by: MARY SCHWALM / AP)
Galchenyuk, Eller, Semin Celebrate a goal (Photo by: MARY SCHWALM / AP)

7- Much has been said lately about Alexander Semin and his slow start to the season, in spite of the team’s success… perhaps even too much? After showing some great chemistry with Galchenyuk and Lars Eller in pre-season, Semin has yet to find his rhythm in regular season but for the longest time, he was playing relatively well defensively. What got him in trouble in the game against the Maple Leafs is the two giveaways resulting in two games, forcing Therrien to bench him. The next step for him might be the pressbox if he can’t find his Mojo soon.

8- The duo of Alexander Semin and Lars Eller are, in fact, not helping young centreman Galchenyuk so far this season. Eller has three goals but considering that two of them came in the same game, it means that he’s only scored one in the other eight games, the same total as Semin. The third line of David Desharnais, Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise has been more productive offensively and Galchenyuk is certainly not to blame for that.

9- Recognizing that while the team is winning, his second line needs to improve, GM Marc Bergevin is certainly noticing that Galchenyuk needs some legitimate offensive wingers and there is no doubt that he’s keeping an eye out around the league to address that need if or when it presents itself, with some teams up to a rough start this season. He is however in the driver seat and he certainly doesn’t have to give the farm to accomplish what he is set to do when need be.

10- According to the Habs salary cap table prepared by our friends at CapFriendly.com, the Canadiens are in good shape with over $3.6 million of cap space available, placing them 19th in the NHL in money committed to the salary cap. This gives Bergevin a lot of flexibility in the event of acquiring a higher end player now or later in the season.

11- A big part of the Canadiens’ success so far has been their Special Teams. The penalty kill has been good in recent years and only the New York Islanders have a better PK percentage than the Habs, who are running at a success rate of 90.9 per cent. Perhaps the biggest improvement is on the powerplay, where the team has scored eight goals with a success rate of 22.9 per cent, good for 8th so far in the NHL.

12- An interesting comment from Lars Eller on Michel Therrien recently. When asked what the biggest difference was from last year to this year, he said that the players are all buying into the system this season. Read into it what you must, but it certainly leaves a lot to interpretation doesn’t it?

As the Habs have won nine in a row to start the season (the record being 10), statistics will tell you that the current winning streak will be ending soon, likely during this Canadian road trip. As the team is playing in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg before returning home to face the Senators at the Bell Centre on Tuesday, November 3rd, all of those teams would just love to be the ones ending it to the top team in the country. Go Habs Go!!!

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J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.