Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens is considered the best goalkeeper in the NHL, if not the world. On Nov. 25, Price went down for the season with an MCL sprain. The downfall of the Canadiens immediately followed.
Montreal, which the year prior had posted a lofty 110 points in the regular season, opened a perfect 9-0-0 and was off to the quickest start in team history until Price's injury. After that, largely with Mike Condon and the since jettisoned Ben Scirvens minding the net, the Canadiens would lose 11 of their next 14 games, finish the season 21st in scoring defense (2.84 GAA) and fail to make the playoffs with 82 points (38-38-6).
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All of that is certainly unacceptable in tradition-rich Montreal. This team's most recent success, under the stewardship of GM Marc Bergevin and Coach Michel Therrien, has been predicated on defense. Unfortunately, that wasn't going to work in 2015-16. In addition to Price going down for the season, injuries along the blue line forced Montreal to use a team-record 15 defensemen.
2016-17 Montreal Canadiens NHL Outlook
Bergevin shocked parts of the hockey world in June when trading All-Star defenseman and fan favorite P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Shea Weber. The 27-year-old Subban, who last year finished with 51 points in 68 games from the blue line, had reportedly fallen out of favor with the Canadiens brass during last year's free-fall. Therrien has declined to elaborate on the deal, other than to say the Canadiens are a better team with the veteran Weber. Perhaps. The 31-year-old Weber was a stalwart on the Predators blue line for the past decade and is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. And the rumblings out of Montreal is Subban had become too high-maintenance for a management group bent on building a team-first culture.
Offensively, the Canadiens will look to improve on a middling finish in goals scored (2.63) in 2014-15. They have some pieces to do it. Young first-line center Alex Glachenyuk should only get better after a breakthrough season of 30 goals and 56 points. He has 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty on his left wing and on the right wing the productive Brendan Gallagher, who tallied 19 goals in just 53 games last season. This line has proven chemistry as well, which makes it a solid launching point for an overall improved Montreal attack.
Montreal Canadiens 2016-17 Schedule
One problem with the Canadiens last season was its lackluster work on the road. That form will be tested immediately, at least to an extent, when Montreal opens with consecutive road games at the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators. Neither of those are projected as playoff teams. An early hiccup there could forebode the times to come.
2016-17 Montreal Canadiens Future Odds
The Canadiens are priced at +2500 to win the Stanley Cup, which puts them in the middle of the pack league-wide. Montreal is +1200 to win the Eastern Conference and +700 to win the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens over/under for regular season points is 96.5. Prior to losing Price last year, Montreal had surpassed 100 points for three straight seasons.
Montreal Canadiens 2016-17 Predictions
Consider this: As the NHL enters its centennial season, the Montreal Canadiens with 24 Stanley Cups-nearly one-quarter of those on offer-makes the Habs the most accomplished sports franchise in North American history. A 25th title seems highly unlikely. The fact they have arguably the world's best goalkeeper makes the Canadiens a threat. That's the good news. The bad news is No. 25 seems unlikely. The lack of proven offensive firepower and the overall depth of quality teams in the NHL would seem to make the Canadiens nothing more than filler in the 2016-17 NHL playoff bracket. With that said, this team still won't be an easy out in the postseason with a healthy Price between the pipes.
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