Our Canadiens peers on SB Nation, Habs Eyes on the Prize, have been killing it -- in two languages! -- and speaking truth to poor nhl.com data this year. To better orient you to the Hockey Club from Montreal, we were happy to swap three questions with site lead Andrew Berkshire.
1. You asked us about Mark Streit. Speaking of aging but good defensemen, it was reasonable to fear Markov was going to be a shell of his former self after all of those hard-luck injuries, yet he seems to be back in form. Is that impression correct? How is he doing it?
He's pretty close to his former self, although a stride slower overall. I wrote about Andrei Markov's season earlier today for our morning open thread post, and essentially he started out tearing teams apart, mostly (in my opinion) because they forgot how great he is on the powerplay. Since then he's cooled off, and Therrien has played him far too much for an older defenseman, so his possession numbers have begun to suffer.
He's still likely a mid-range #1 defenseman for most teams, but he could really use P.K. Subban to take some of those tough minutes, but Therrien would rather play P.K. on the third pairing for some odd reason. So Markov is doing well, but showing signs of deterioration.
2. It's fair to say the Canadiens, thanks to a perfect storm, were not as bad as their standings finish last year (and hey, when it gets you Galchenyuk, that's hard luck you can deal with). But holy cow, 11-4-1 -- are they really a playoff team?
I think they're a playoff team, but they're not an 11-4-1 team. They're solidly above par in possession, and they have the tools to be great on both special teams. Add in Carey Price and you've got above average goaltending as well. They've been pretty darn lucky so far this season, and that's not going to hold out, but the regression isn't going to be nearly as strong in 48 games as it would be in 82, so it's very difficult to see them missing the playoffs after such a hot start.
Will they challenge for the division title? I'm not sure. I don't think they're as good as the Bruins yet, but they could get there, and Price can be the great equalizer. A career year from him could put them in an amazing position.
3. Lots of Isles fans eyed Galchenyuk. How's he being used, and performing, so far?
Galchenyuk is being deployed over 60% of the time in the offensive zone, however Therrien isn't keeping him away from top level competition. He's clearly sheltered zonally, and he seems to be making the most of it. He's producing at a really nice rate for an 18/19 year old, let alone one who missed the entire season last year, although his production isn't sustainable (13.64% on-ice shooting percentage is a team high) unless he ups his game a bit.
He's floating around even on possession, however he's a very strong 54.3% Corsi while the game is close, 61% when away from Brandon Prust. There have also been flashes the last couple of games that Galchenyuk may be taking it to the next level already, as he was deployed more in the defensive zone on Lars Eller's win last game against the Rangers, and they blitzed their opponents for a 67% Corsi. Being very understated, Galchenyuk is extremely exciting.
Bonus Question, or Request on Behalf of The People: We Isles fans hold grudges for a long time. (The officiating in 1993? Horrible.) So it would be great if you could say one bad thing about Kirk Muller. Anything? Help a bitter out?
Something mean about Kirk? But he's so awesome! Ummm... A friend of a friend once met him and said he comes off as a bit of a meathead. Is that bad enough?
Thanks to Andrew. His questions for myself are posted over here, which includes an update on the LHH trade demand.