Stock Watch for Montreal Canadiens' Top-6 Forwards
The Montreal Canadiens are a quarter of the way through their schedule, and it's time to check in on the stocks of their top-six forwards.
Injuries have been a major issue up front in 2013-14 for the Habs. Max Pacioretty, Daniel Briere, Brandon Prust and George Parros all missed extended periods of time already this season.
This forced others to step up in their absence to help keep Montreal in a playoff position. They currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference through 24 games.
This might be the time of year the Canadiens make their move, as they are finally healthy and on a roll, winning three straight over tough opponents. Their forwards are especially hot, having scored 12 goals over that same span.
Here is a stock watch for the Montreal Canadiens' top-six forwards.
Max Pacioretty: Up
Max Pacioretty is as hot as they come in the NHL right now, and his stock is certainly trending up.
The 25-year-old left winger has scored five goals in the past three games to put to rest any doubts about his ability to lead the Canadiens as a goal scorer.
His recent outburst included a natural hat trick in the second period against Minnesota November 19 and a two-goal performance versus Pittsburgh November 23. He earned himself the NHL’s second star for the week ending November 24.
On the year, Pacioretty has seven goals and nine points in 15 games, but his numbers would surely be better if it weren’t for injury. He missed seven games after suffering a leg injury back on October 15, and it took him a few games to regain his form even after returning to the lineup November 2.
Of course, being reunited with Brendan Gallagher and David Desharnais hasn’t hurt, either. Last year's No. 1 scoring line has been put back together, and it has resulted in Pacioretty's mini explosion and three straight wins.
After a rough start to the year, Max Pacioretty is on the rise at the right time. Montreal was in desperate need of offense, and he answered the call. Now he just needs to find a way to stay healthy.
Brendan Gallagher: Slightly Up
Brendan Gallagher is a one-man spark plug who is fast developing a reputation as one of those players who makes everyone else around him better.
Following a prolonged stretch where the Habs failed to generate much offense, coach Michel Therrien decided it was time to juggle his lines. He made the bold move of breaking up his best line (Gallagher, Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk) in hopes of more team balance.
Gallagher was paired up with last year’s linemates—David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty—and the results have been fantastic.
As a line, they have combined for 10 points in three games. More importantly, the team has reeled off three straight wins against very good opponents (Minnesota, Washington and Pittsburgh).
Gallagher has just two assists over the past three games, but he brings so much more than just stats to the table each game. His physical play opens up space for his linemates to maneuver, and he crashes the net to create traffic in front. His energy also seems to be contagious.
On the season, the sophomore has a very impressive eight goals, which leads the team, and six assists in 23 games. He is second on the team in plus/minus at plus-eight and is averaging just less than 16 minutes of ice time per game.
Gallagher continues to impress each and every night despite coming off a season in which he finished second in rookie of the year voting. The 21-year-old is an invaluable piece of the Montreal Canadiens and certainly has a bright future ahead.
Tomas Plekanec: Up
Tomas Plekanec is one of those players whose name doesn’t stand out on a scorecard very often. He’s rarely seen on SportsCenter. And he’s never talked about as being one of the best centers in the league.
But if you were to ask Michel Therrien who his most valuable forward is on a nightly basis, there’s a good chance he responds with Tomas Plekanec.
The veteran center from the Czech Republic is Montreal’s jack-of-all-trades. He plays against the opposition’s top line, kills penalties, gets power-play time, wins faceoffs and scores goals.
Despite being asked to do so much more than just score, Plekanec is tied for second amongst Canadiens forwards with seven goals. He also has eight assists for 15 points in 24 games. He has a 49.9 percent faceoff win percentage, a very respectable number considering he often squares up against the league’s best.
He also leads all Montreal forwards in time on ice per game (18:40) and shorthanded time on ice (2:36).
His value to the Canadiens was obvious November 23 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Plekanec was asked to line up against Sidney Crosby all evening and completely shut him down.
Crosby was not only held pointless by Plekanec, but the latter also dominated him in the faceoff circle, taking 14 of 19 draws on the evening. He even managed to score Montreal’s second goal of the game—while Crosby was on the ice.
Plekanec is asked to do it all for Montreal night in and night out, and he usually delivers. He’s certainly been on top of his game this season, and for that reason, his stock is trending up.
Alex Galchenyuk: Up
Alex Galchenyuk had a fairly impressive rookie campaign last season, but the Montreal Canadiens were certainly hoping he would take a step forward in 2013-14. The teenager has not disappointed.
The 19-year-old is showing the hockey world why he was the third overall pick in the 2012 draft. His line, with Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher, worked its way to becoming Montreal's top-scoring trio through the first quarter of the year (Brandon Prust has recently taken Gallagher's spot on the line as Coach Therrien looks for more scoring balance).
Through 24 games this year, Galchenyuk has five goals and 16 points. He leads all Canadiens forwards in assists with 11. His talent level has been on full display all year, and he has been a part of several of Montreal's nicest goals of the season.
Alex Galchenyuk's stock is certainly on the rise, and considering he still hasn't turned 20 yet, it's exciting to wonder what the future has in store.
Lars Eller: Slightly Up
If this stock-watch article had been written after the second week of the season, Lars Eller would have been the hottest commodity in the NHL. Things have predictably cooled off for the young Dane, yet he's still enjoying a nice season, which has his overall stock on the rise.
Eller was a main part of the Canadiens' Kid Line that helped them survive the injury bug that hit several forwards earlier this year. He shot out of the gate with five goals in as many games, as the three youngsters quickly became Montreal's top line.
The 24-year-old has regressed recently with just two goals in the past 19 games, but on the season, his numbers still look nice with seven goals and six assists. He has also been a pleasant surprise in the faceoff circle, where he leads Montreal centers with a 52.3 percent win rate.
Last year, Eller showed signs of why he was a 2007 first-round pick and has built on that success this season. It would be nice to see a little more consistency when it comes to offensive production, but overall, his career is definitely trending in the right direction.
Daniel Briere: Down
Daniel Briere was hoping to resurrect his career when he signed with Montreal this past offseason. So far, it hasn't quite worked out that way.
Injuries continue to be the story late in Briere's career, as yet another concussion has limited him to just 14 games this season. Over that span, he has four goal and three assists.
Obviously, a point every two games is not great, but it's also not terrible for someone who is 36 years old. What's more concerning is Briere's propensity to disappear on the ice (or the bench) for long lengths of time.
Briere's poor play has resulted in fourth-line duty on more than one occasion this season.
In Montreal's most recent game against Pittsburgh November 23, Briere found himself mostly watching from the bench, as Travis Moen took his place alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta in an effort to help neutralize Sidney Crosby.
Briere hasn't had a great debut in Montreal, but there is still plenty of time for him to turn his season around. For now his stock is trending down, but Canadiens fans are all rooting for it to be on the rise sometime in the near future.