It’s been 22 years counting since Montreal (or any team from Canada) won the Stanley Cup. Last season the team had high expectations and were supposed to contend for another Stanley Cup. But those plans collapsed when they fell behind 3-0 to Tampa Bay and eventually lost the series in six games.
But if you remember, the Bolts had the Habs number, as they won nine of the 11 contests over the season. Montreal will be looking at that as motivation as they appear to be Canada’s favorite to win the Stanley Cup entering this season.
This year’s lineup starts at the foundation in goal. Carey Price had one of the most memorable seasons in recent history when he won the Vezina and Hart trophies. He led the league in wins (44), goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933) last season and finished second in shutouts with nine. He’s the surefire No. 1 goalie and expect him to put up similar numbers this season as he’s still in the prime of his career.
What Price needs the most is better offense. The Canadiens were 20th in goals-for and 23rd on the power play last season. For them to challenge elite teams like Tampa Bay and New York in the East as well as Chicago in the West they have to improve on offense. The biggest signing they had during the off-season was bringing in Alexander Semin. It’s a step in the right direction but which Semin will you get – The one that was a three-time 30-goal scorer in Washington or the one that got bought out two years into a five year deal in Carolina?
Other forwards who should contribute on offense this season include Zack Kassian and Devonte Smith-Pelly. Kassian was traded to Montreal from Vancouver, where he led the team in goals per 60 minutes last season. He’s scored 35 goals in 198 games and hopefully Michel Therrien will have a bigger role for him than the one he had in the Pacific Northwest. Smith-Pelly was traded late on the season last year, expect him to feel more comfortable in the Montreal system where he can flourish and help offensively.
On defense, they have one of the best offensive defense units in the league. They are led by P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, who combined for 110 points. Like Smith-Pelly, Jeff Petry will have a full season under his belt as he is slotted for the second defensive pairing.
As for an outlook, the Canadiens will battle again with Tampa Bay for the division. You could put Detroit and Boston in the mix as well, but heading into the season the Canadiens are expected to win the division and make a Stanley Cup run.