After getting off to one of their best starts in franchise history, the Montreal Canadiens fell flat after a multitude of injuries decimated their season. How will they fair in 2017?
The Canadiens were one of the hottest teams out of the gate going a perfect 9-0-0 in their first slew of games. The players were scoring, the defense was playing perfect and Carey Price was 7-0-0 with two shutouts. However, Carey Price was injured in a game on October 30th and missed significant time. He did return against the New York Rangers on November 25th, but also left that game after reaggravating his knee. Price ultimately was held to just 12 games and the team did not hold up well in his absence. With Price now 100% and Montreal making some interesting offseason additions, the question remains can they dominate again in 2017.
One of the biggest offseason additions the Canadiens made was signing Russian forward Alex Radulov. Radulov had spent the last four seasons in the KHL after playing for the Nashville Predators. Despite not having the best off ice reputation, Radulov is incredibly talented and can bring a ton of offense to Montreal. Last season playing for CSKA Moscow Radulov registered 65 points in 53 games and 16 points in 20 playoff games. Radulov may have been a controversial signing, but if he can produce similarly to his numbers in the KHL this signing will be worth every penny.
Aside from Radulov the Canadiens also have the fire power of captain Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk, 22, recorded 56 points in 82 games last season and hit the 30 goal mark for the first time in his career. With Galchenyuk likely to be the team’s number center heading into next season there is a very good chance he can hit the 30 goal mark again. Gallagher was one of the many Canadiens players to miss time due to injury last season, only appearing in 53 games. However, in his 53 games played Gallagher totaled 40 points and has become a staple in Montreal’s core. Coupled with the top six, the Canadiens have a good mix of veterans and young players to help balance the lineup. Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais can help out the offense while younger players such as Daniel Carr, Sven Andrighetto and Phillip Danault continue to develop and hone their skills.
Montreal made headlines this offseason when they announced the trade of P.K Subban for Shea Weber. It had so many people scratching their heads that many fans thought the trade wasn’t even real at first. Although Subban was an extremely important part of the Canadiens’ backend, they’re certainly getting a superstar back in Shea Weber. Weber has been with the Nashville Predators since the 2005-06 season and has established himself as one of the league’s elite defensemen. Whether its slapshot, physical play or big minutes Weber will slot in nicely for the Canadiens defense. Along with Weber, Montreal has an older defense with Andrei Markov (37), Jeff Petry (28) and Alexi Emelin (30) along with up and coming defenseman Nathan Beaulieu (23). Although this group isn’t the youngest group of players they are still extremely talented and can get the job now. By acquiring Weber Montreal is making a statement that they’re trying to win the Stanley Cup within the next 5 or so years.
Montreal’s goaltending may be their biggest strength and that is because of Carey Price. Price has dominated as one of the National Hockey League’s elite since entering the starting goaltender role fulltime in 2009. In 2014-15 Price was so dominant that he took home four awards including the Hart Memorial Trophy, Vezina Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and the William Jennings Trophy. He was on his way to having one of his best seasons ever with a 10-2-0 record before he was injured, but is now 100% healthy and gearing up for the World Cup of Hockey in September.
“I feel like my old self on the ice,” Price told NHL.com after two 90-minute ice sessions at a fundraiser for the Eli Wilson Goaltending Sponsorship Fund on Saturday.
Canadiens goalie coach Stephane Waite has talked about limiting Price to about 60 games next season and have Al Montoya compete with Mike Condon for the backup job in training camp. Although Condon did have a losing record in his 55 game appearances last season, he may be the perfect answer as the backup with Price now playing the majority of the games. With last season over and done with Montreal fans can now breathe a sigh of relief as all of their players are healthy as less than two months remain before the puck drops on opening night.
PREDICTION: Having the best goalie in the world does wonders for the Canadiens and I predict they will have a successful bounce back year and make the playoffs.