With an explosive playoff run last season, the Montreal Canadiens have shown the NHL that they will be a force to be reckoned with this season. Over the offseason, Montreal was able to keep the majority of their roster intact, as well as add a few new players. But will it be enough to get them to the playoff again?
Offense has always been Montreal’s strong suit and will continue to be into the 2014-2015 season. Montreal posted a total of 209 goals last season, with a second place finish in the Eastern Conference. Key players that will be returning to the team include Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, and Tomas Plekanec. Pacioretty lead the team with 39 goals and 21 assists; consistency will be a major advantage the Canadiens will have by keeping Pacioretty in the lineup.
The offseason addition of forwards, P.A. Parenteau and Manny Malhotra, will bring extra strength to the Canadiens’ offense, as well as multiple years of NHL experience. Malhotra will make a huge impact to the Canadien’s faceoff win percentage; Malhotra is arguably one of the best faceoff men in the league, and having him will without a doubt increase the puck possession of Montreal’s fourth line. What Malhotra lacks in point scoring, the Canadiens made up with by acquiring P.A. Parenteau; the 32-year-old still has a lot of hockey left in him, and his ability to move the puck and set up teammates will be a great asset to Montreal in the long run.
Two players to watch out for this season will be young guns duo, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. Gallagher is a player that is not afraid to put the puck on net, an asset many NHL teams are lacking. Gallagher is also one of Montreal’s best younger guys on the power play; last season Gallagher posted 7 goals on the power play with 29 shots on goal. Galchenyuk will most likely be played as a winger again for most of this season; however, that shouldn’t keep him from posting big numbers again this season. Galchenyuk only skated in 65 games and managed a total of 31 points, the 6th highest among the team’s forwards. With more ice time this season, Galchenyuk should be able to be one of the biggest scorers on the team.
Last season’s defensive efforts for the Canadiens were an enormous improvement from previous seasons, and luckily the majority of last season’s defensive line up will return to the roster for the 2014-2015 season. Star defenseman PK Subban’s return to Montreal’s lineup is a huge relief to Montreal fans. Subban and defensive partner, Andrei Markov, form one of the NHL’s most effective defensive pairings and give Montreal’s goaltenders massive support from the blue line. Not only is Subban a defensive powerhouse, he is also able to capitalize on scoring opportunities and create plays.
Former Florida Panthers player, Tom Gilbert, will be filling in Josh Gorges’ spot in the second defensive pairing alongside Alexei Emelin. Defense should not be a problem at all for the Canadiens; if anything, the team’s defensive skill will increase as the team and its players continue to develop throughout the season.
Montreal undoubtedly has one of the most talented and consistent goaltenders in the league. With that said, there is no doubt that Carey Price will start for Montreal. Price finished last season with 34 wins (6th in the NHL), a .927 save percentage (4th in the NHL), and 6 shutouts (2nd in the NHL), and managed to lead the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers, before being taken out with a season ending injury. Peter Budaj is expected to play back up to Price. Budaj is one of the more consistent back up goaltenders in the East and shouldn’t have a problem if Price is ever sidelined this season.
Montreal will definitely have a bigger presence in the East this season. They shouldn’t have a problem making the playoffs, but their success this season will rely on how consistently Montreal’s offense can play.