With Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais, Andrew Shaw joined on the injury list by Brendan Gallagher and Andrei Markov, it’s a wonder how the Montreal Canadiens have managed to stay at the top of the Atlantic Division. Last season, all it took was Carey Price getting injured to end their season, this year their players have stepped up.
Whilst captain Max Pacioretty has been a consistent leader of the team, new players by the likes of Shea Weber and Alexander Radulov have really stepped up his game in recent contests, helping to fill the void left by so many star players hitting the injury list.
Long road back for Radulov
Alexander Radulov was originally drafted back in 2004, 15th overall by the Nashville Predators, and then spent the next two seasons with the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL. After putting up 75 points in 2004/05 and then 152 points in 2005/06, the Predators decided to call up the Russian winger.
In two NHL seasons, Radulov posted 37 points in his 64 rookie appearances and 58 points in 81 games of the 2007/08 season. In what would have been his third season, the Predators suspended Radulov without pay for the entire campaign due to him signing up with a KHL team, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, and not intending to play for Nashville in the final year of his contract.
Still a regular feature for the Russian national team, Radulov averaged 1.3 points per game in the KHL, making a brief, end of season cameo for the Predators in 2011/12. Given that he’s a proven flight risk, and transitioning back from the KHL to the NHL can be tough for players, the Montreal Canadiens gave Radulov a safe one-year, $5.75 million deal.
Radulov heating up at the best time
As mentioned earlier, the Montreal Canadiens have seen their injury pile stack up with many of their star players, with December being a particularly lean month for them. Alexander Radulov didn’t have a good start to December, whilst he did put up three points against the Kings and two against the Avalanche at the start of the month; he managed to go nine games without a single point, six of which were consecutive games.
But, the holiday break seemed to do just the trick to shake Radulov out of his funk, with the ‘Rad Russian’ putting up four goals and four assists over the last six games of the seven-game road trip. On the season, Montreal’s away form isn’t great, hosting a 10-6-4 record on the road; however, Radulov’s red-hot form managed to earn them a 4-1-1 record to end the trip.
The Montreal Canadiens were outclassed by the Washington Capitals last night, with a resurgent Alexander Ovechkin pulling in a goal and two assists as he looks to climb up the rankings after a somewhat weak start to the season, by his standards. Radulov’s eight points make him the highest scoring Canadien since the break, putting up one more than Max Pacioretty – who he has three primary assists to over this spell.
New found depth and stability vaulting the Canadiens
Obviously, the major change between this season and last is the return of Carey Price. Head coach Michel Therrien was more than willing to throw in the towel without the elite goaltender last season – often using star defenseman P.K. Subban as a scape-goat, who he has since traded.
But now that they’ve reinforced their lines with the likes of Alexander Radulov, brought in a more defence-minded blue-liner in Shea Weber, and have a healthy Carey Price – who’s clearly making up for lost time – the Montreal Canadiens look to still be real contenders despite the plague of injuries that has struck them.
Radulov’s 31 points in 38 games along with the consistency of Pacioretty and Weber gives the Habs a solid base to only improve from as the likes of Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and Andrei Markov returns to the lines.
What do you think of Radulov’s return to the NHL? Let us know in the comments section below.