Hello Ladies and Gentleman!
Today we will take a look at how the Montreal Canadiens.
2019-20 record: 31-31-9, 71pts (5th in Atlantic, 12th in Eastern Conference)
2019-20 postseason: Lost in Eastern Conference First Round to Philadelphia Flyers
How They Were Built:
Key Additions: F Tyler Toffoli, F Josh Anderson, F Corey Perry, Michael Frolik, D Joel Edmundson, G Jake Allen
Key Departures: Max Domi
How They Got Here:
The Montreal Canadiens were the 24th and final team to make the playoffs last season in the NHL’s Return to Play bubble in July. The Canadiens would shock the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Play-In Round, but then fall in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite the disappointing record, there was some hope that Montreal would make some noise in the bubble.
Last season the team was pretty good with even man strength, had good possession time as a team, and had Carey Price put the team on his back. In three of Montreal’s losses to the Flyers, those losses were by a goal and allowed no more than three goals in each of their contests.
What To Look For:
- This season is going to be a very interesting one. Reason being that with the NHL having different divisions this season, all of the opponents that Montreal will play are all based in Canada. This format will only stick for this season.
- Josh Anderson. This was a bit of a shock. Anderson would be signed to a 7 year/$38 million deal shortly after he was traded to the Canadiens for Max Domi. Anderson has the ability to have at least a 20 goal season and bring some ability to finish out contests to the team that it seemed to miss from time to time. The concern when it comes to Anderson is injuries. Anderson is coming off a campaign in which he only scored one goal in 26 games. The contract is definitely a high risk for a player who isn’t considered to be a mega star and the risk can be potentially higher when said player only scores once in a span of 26 games, as Anderson did last season.
- Goaltending. Montreal has nearly $15 million invested in goaltending after acquiring Jake Allen’s contract, which has an AAV of $4.8 million. After re-signing Allen to a two-year extension at $2.875 million starting next season, Montreal will have nearly $13.5 million invested in goaltending. That is also a high risk to have in a position when only one can play on the ice at a time. Now with the Allen acquisition, it does give Montreal something they have needed for a while. A capable backup who can win the team games when Price needs a night off.
Expectations for the Season:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL season will look different when it comes to the Divisional format. The postseason will contain each of the top four teams in the divisions and all four rounds will return to the traditional best-of-seven format. With the postseason being intra-divisional match-ups, it is very plausible that Montreal could play a division rival 16 or 17 times this season.
You ask yourself how is that possible? Well with this season being a 56-game schedule, Montreal will play each of the Canadian teams 9 or 10 times.
In order for Montreal to replicate the same success that was shown in the Return to Play from the summer, the Canadiens can’t trap themselves in allowing breakaways nor can they play lackluster defence. Carey Price can’t play every night and the hope is that new acquisition in net, Jake Allen, can be a reliable back-up. The other hope is that the other acquisition in Josh Anderson can pan out. Anderson, fresh off a 7 year/$38 million extension will also work. However, Anderson only played 26 games last season and had just a lone goal. If that contract is going to work out for Anderson and Montreal, he needs to show up and show out.
With Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the time is now for both young players to step out into the spotlight even more and having Stanley Cup winning veterans now a part of the core, that could bring in a lot of guidance to a franchise that has not won the Stanley Cup since 1993.
Barring a disaster, my projection in this 56 game season is that the Canadiens will finish fourth in the North Division but fall in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.