The underdog Montreal Canadiens took down the heavy favorite Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup qualifying series. The Habs played 60+ minutes of hard hockey every game, and the hard work paid off. Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher, and Carey Price all played extremely well during this series. But who was the Canadien’s best player? I will settle that today using a grading system A+ to F. Going in alphabetical order I will give every Habs player a grade.
Joel Armia – B
Armia had a very good series. He played most of the series with Drouin and Suzuki, in the last game when the lines got shuffled we saw Jesperi Kotkaneimi slot into the middle of that line. The issue with Armia the whole series was discipline, he’s one of the Habs best penalty killers and he took too many penalties. They could have ended up costing the team more than it did.
Alex Belzile – C+
Belzile only played one game in the series. However he played very well, it was his first NHL game and Belzile stepped up. The fourth line didn’t skip a beat in game four with Belzile, all round I was very impressed by Belzile’s play so I think C+ is the perfect grade.
Paul Byron – B+
One of the most impressive players on the Canadiens during this series was Paul Byron. Very good on the penalty kill and he even put up points. Byron played very well during the series and impressed many.
Phillip Danault – B
Danault was very solid throughout the season for the Habs, and he picked up where he left off. He won big faceoffs when the Habs needed them the most, unfortunately in game four he was moved down from the first line to the third line, but still performed. Danault isn’t really a player who puts up a lot of points but he usually makes up for it on the penalty kill and in his defensive play.
Max Domi – B+
Personally, I found it very frustrating to see Max Domi on the fourth line. Then I saw how he was driving that line and giving the team scoring chances. He played Max Domi hockey, up and down the ice, takes a shot and goes after his rebound. Domi looked comfortable, however, I think he would be amazing on the third line, and I’m hoping that’s where he goes against the Flyers.
Jonathan Drouin – B
Drouin wasn’t very good in the first 2 games, he looked slow and uncomfortable. In game three he played very well. He got a lucky bounce and it led to a confidence booster. Julien’s expectations for Drouin are high, So Drouin needs to play well going forward, but in the series, he was a B.
Jake Evans – C
Evans only played one period in the series before getting injured. In that period he looked fast and very strong, good with the puck. And I really hope he will be good to go for the next round.
I would like to say Gallagher impressed me during this series, but he honestly didn’t. He played the way he plays, getting under everyone’s skin, being a pest, and just being fun to watch. Gallagher was great in this series so a B fits his play quite well.
Kotkaniemi was amazing in this series. One of our best forwards, he got a lucky bounce in game one and got confidence back. He was there for another goal in game two, he stepped up for the Habs and got rewarded with a spot on the second line in game four. Kotkaniemi impressed a lot of people, he played the way he did in his rookie season which was very well.
Artturi Lehkonen – B+
Lehkonen was very impressive for the Habs. He was one of the unsung heroes for the offense, getting the series-winning goal. I believe he will be able to carry it over and play the same against the Flyers.
Nick Suzuki – A+
Suzuki was the Canadiens best forward in this series. He was playing like a 10-year veteran, he was never nervous, he even scored in his first game. Good play pays off, and it did for Suzuki. He got a chance to play on the top line with Tatar and Gallagher in game four, and with the spotlight on him he shined.
Tomas Tatar – B+
Tatar was very consistent in this series. One of the Hab’s best players, he played a simple game and was good getting pucks on net and putting pressure on the Penguins. He was a pain in the Penguins’ defense side the whole series, and going forward Tatar needs to play simple and finish the job for the Habs.
Jordan Weal – C-
Weal wasn’t great for the Canadiens in this series, which might have been a role in the fact that he was scratched in games three and four. He wasn’t that consistent during the season, and I was a surprise that he even played in the first two games.
Dale Weise – C-
Weise wasn’t great throughout the entire season, but in this series, his play had worsened. Multiple turnovers led to chances for the Pens. Weise was alright, however, compared to the rest of the Habs forwards, he was quite disappointing.
Ben Chiarot – C+
Chiarot was very effective in shutting down Evgeni Malkin and the Penguin’s second line, but he took a couple of costly penalties. Going into round one against the Flyers, Chiarot will have a tough task to shut them down so he needs to step up.
Brett Kulak – A+
Many have called Kulak the “unsung hero” for the Canadiens, for me Kulak’s performance was no surprise. Kulak was consistent in shutting down Crosby and he was great at getting pucks on net. He didn’t try anything too fancy, he played a simple game. Kulak was amazing alongside Petry during this series, one of the best but not the Canadiens’ best player. He needs to continue that next round.
Victor Mete – B+
Mete impressed a lot of people in this series, even on the bottom pairing he managed to perform. Mete has a lot to build off of going into the next round and I think he has the potential to have an A+ rating next round.
Xavier Ouellet – C
Ouellet was very solid for the Habs on the point, no great not bad. Exactly what the Habs needed from Ouellet in this series.
Jeff Petry – A+
If there was a better grade than A+, Petry definitely earned it. He was great all series. He was a 200-foot player the whole series. two game-winning goals, one mistake defensively. The Kulak and Petry pairing may have been the best in the league during the play-in series. If the Habs don’t resign Petry this offseason it would be very disappointing.
Shea Weber – A
Weber was very consistent with the Canadiens in this series. He was captain Clutch for his team. Leading the way through the entire series, he was very good in the play-ins series.
Who was the best?
All the skaters played extremely well for the Canadiens this series, but there is one player who hasn’t been graded yet and that player was the Canadiens’ best player in the play-ins series.
Carey Price – A+
While it won’t come as a surprise to most, the Canadiens’ best player this series was without a doubt, Carey Price. Price lead the team in this series. In game one, it wouldn’t have gone to overtime. Game two wouldn’t have been so close. Game three would have been a blowout, and in game four he pitched a shutout. Price played the way he did in 2015, he was on his head during the playoffs that year, and it seems like he’s heading the same route.
On to Philadelphia
The Canadiens all played very well in this series, but they need to play better. Carter Hart is leading a fun, fast, hungry hockey team, and the Habs have the task of trying to neutralize them. They need to play 60 minutes of hard hockey. The Canadiens must take advantage of power-play opportunities against the Flyers.
Price, Kulak, and Petry are 3 key players going in. The Canadiens need to play with a lead in every game, the Habs know from earlier this season that playing with a lead is the only way to beat the Flyers. It’s time for real playoff hockey and the Montreal Canadiens have to be ready.
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