by Dustin Kagan Fleming
The Habs are off to a historic start this season. The Canadiens are7-0-0 after a shutout win against the St Louis Blues (another extremely hot team right now). While expectations were high for the team going into the season, I don’t think anyone expected this. To give a bit of perspective, the previous record for a Canadiens team’s start to the season was 4-0-0 and every time they’ve done that, a cup has come to Montreal. That’s the best start to a season in 106 years and the longest overall win streak since 2002 according to Elias sports bureau. Here’s a few of the reasons why this team is so dominant.
1: An aggressive 4 man rush: Last year the Habs tended to have any defensemen that weren’t named Subban stick pretty close to the blueline when on the attack. This meant any offensive zone presence was usually limited to 3 attackers. Now there are 4 or 5 bodies around the other team’s net every night. Every defenseman is being used in conjunction with the forwards. This isn’t just for slapshots from the point, every defender from Markov to Gilbert has joined the attack around and in front of the net. This works because we have a defensively gifted team with an abundance of centers that can take defenders’ places if the opponent manages to start their own rush. The other part of the offense that’s improved is the aggressiveness. Last year the team would sit back on a one goal lead and routinely get outshot. This year they’re first in shot attempts per game and I have yet to see them sit back on a lead (which is saying something as they’ve only been behind for 2:57 total time this season.
2: 4 dangerous lines: There are no Bourques or Moen’s this season. With the offseason acquisitions of Fleischmann and Semin as well as last year’s late season trades paying off, the team has stable talent. There are no holes in the forward core right now. All of these lines are played against top competition in each game and have found ways to dominate. The chemistry with each line is beautiful. Pacioretty and Plekanec’s chemistry was apparent last year and Gallagher fits right in as he did at points last year. Galchenyuk and Eller’s moves to center and wing respectively are paying of dividends for the Habs while Semin is starting to look really good. Desharnais has showed just how good he is when not playing every shift against the top centers in the league by becoming one of the most elite 3rd liners in the game. The chemistry between him, Weise and Fleischmann is incredible and it seems that they create incredible chances every shift they’re out there. The 4th line might be the biggest surprise though. Mitchell has taken over most of the defensive zone starts incredibly well and shows just how opportunistic his play is by putting in two goals off of smart plays. Flynn is fighting his heart out for his roster spot and has made it impossible to take him off with his heart and soul play, his speed and his great puck movement. Smith Pelly shed 15 pounds over the offseason and man does it show. He’s fast, great on the puck in both zones and is still checking as well as ever. This line’s been so energetic and smart that it can contain even the most dangerous opponents. Being able to roll 4 capable lines allows the all the players to have more controlled ice team, keeping them fresher and more ready every shift.
3: Price is Price: Carey Price swept the NHL awards in June and he’s showing why early this season. Carey Price is the best goaltender in the world and last year was hands down the best player in the league. His play has simply been Carey Price, he is his own measuring stick at the moment. He is incredible to watch and seems to be in mid season form if not better already. His stats are dominant with a 1.00 GAA, .966 save percentage, 6 wins and 2 shutouts. Even better than those stats has been his play, he so rarely gives up a second chance and when he does, the saves he makes are highlight reel ones that demonstrate apparent ease. Man it has to be frustrating to play against this guy.
Dustin Kagan Fleming is a Montreal student. An upbringing in the city has left him with a passion and love for hockey and the Canadiens from day 1. To read more of his work, visit his website https://canadienspostgame.wordpress.com/.