The Montreal Canadiens made a run of dreams last season, making the playoffs as the fourth team out of the North Division. They started by taking out the top-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games, then they swept the Winnipeg Jets in the second round. In the “Conference” Finals, they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in six games to face the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately for the Montreal faithful, the Canadiens run was stomped out by the mighty Lightning who repeated as Stanley Cup Champions.
In the draft, the Canadiens made shockwaves throughout the hockey world when they selected defenseman Logan Mailloux in the first round. Mailloux was fined for sexual misconduct charges in Sweden, after sending photos to his teammates of a sexual act without the consent of the woman involved. Mailloux had asked not to be drafted in order to better himself personally, believing he wasn’t ready to be drafted. Nonetheless, the Canadiens selected Mailloux with the 31st overall pick.
During the offseason, the Canadiens got the horrible news that their captain Shea Weber‘s career may be over due to several injuries he sustained to his ankle, knee, foot, and thumb. In response, general manager Marc Bergevin signed David Savard to a four-year, $14 million deal. He also signed forward Mike Hoffman, who inked a three-year, $13.5 million deal with the organization. The Canadiens also signed Mathieu Perrault, Cedric Paquette, Jean-Sebastien Dea, and Louis Belpedio. To top it all off, the Canadiens traded for Christian Dvorak, acquiring him from the Arizona Coyotes. Now that we’ve recapped what has happened in the past year, let’s look to this season for Montreal.
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In the playoffs last year, the offense was a big struggle for the Canadiens, as they were outscored 17-8 by the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals. If they want to be competitive in the Atlantic Division this year, the team’s offense has to step up. Hoffman should be able to help with that once he returns from his lower-body injury. Dvorak will also be a big help and should be able to contribute right away. Coming off of a 17 goal season last year, he will more than likely get increased ice time in Montreal with better weapons to increase those point totals. Tyler Toffoli will also be called upon once again to be the leader in scoring for the Canadiens after scoring 44 points last season.
There is no doubt that Weber will be missed on the back end. While Savard was brought in to fill that spot, there will truly never be a Weber replacement. In practice today, the top defensive pairing used was Brett Kulak on the left and Jeff Petry on the right. They had worked together last season, and Petry was the second leading points scorer on the team. Keep an eye on the young Alexander Romanov throughout the season, as the 38th overall pick in the 2018 draft begins his second year with some expectations with the Canadiens
In the crease, the Canadiens will be without a familiar face for a while, as Carey Price recently announced that he would be heading into the NHL’s player assistance program to focus on his mental health. To start the season, the tandem will be starter Jake Allen and backup Samuel Montembeault. Allen had 27 starts last year in his first season with the Canadiens. Montembault was a late addition in response to the Price news, as he was claimed off of waivers from the Florida Panthers. Look for Allen to rise to the occasion of being a starter again. He has had that mantle before with the St. Louis Blues, and won’t take this second chance lightly.
For this Canadiens team, there are many players who could be considered key players. The ones we have in mind for this may be a little bit out of the box, but there are many options on this team in this category. Let’s break down the key players for Montreal.
Yes, you read that right. After coming to the Canadiens in the playoffs, Caufield dazzled fans in the playoffs, scoring 12 points in 20 games. This will be his rookie season, so there are plenty of expectations for him from the Canadiens and hockey fans alike. He is expected to be in the running for the Calder Trophy this year. Therefore, expectations are high for Caufield, and his continued offensive presence could be key for Montreal down the stretch.
At first, it would have probably been Toffoli here, but there’s one major thing that put Suzuki into this spot. It’s the massive contract extension he signed, an eight-year, $63 million extension, that goes into effect next year. With that amount of term and money, Canadiens fans just put their spotlights on Suzuki. After back-to-back 41 point seasons for Suzuki, the Canadiens will look to see if he can pass that mark this year and show why he got that extension.
Biggest Question Facing the Canadiens
There are a few pressing questions when examining this Canadiens team. The biggest has to be looking at the offensive side of things. Back in the Atlantic Division, do the Montreal Canadiens have the offensive firepower to compete? Fans will have to wait and see. It will be interesting to see if they can put all the pieces together.
Sticking with the forecast theme, for the Canadiens, the forecast looks cloudy with a chance of playoffs. It is going to be a fight now that they are back in the Atlantic Division with teams like Tampa Bay, but there are also teams that are clearly rebuilding. Realistically, the Canadiens could make the playoffs, but they will have to work for it. If the offense can continue to develop, the Canadiens may return to the playoffs again.
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