32 Teams in 31 Days NHL Team Recaps: Montreal Canadiens

Via puckprose.com

32 Teams in 31 Days NHL Team Recaps: Montreal Canadiens

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32 Teams in 31 Days NHL Team Recaps: Montreal Canadiens

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Via puckprose.com

The Canadiens are only two seasons removed from their last appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Yet the Canadiens are still trying to build a contending team. Despite losing to one of the best teams in recent NHL history, the Canadiens are not even in the same tier. Why? During the 2021 season, the Canadiens benefited from a Canadian only division. This allowed them to squeeze into the playoff mix that season, and make one of the best Cinderella runs to the Stanley Cup Final in recent history. The Canadiens in truth had no reason to make it to the Cup Final but stunned many on their way there. Now, winners of this year’s draft lottery to get the Number 1 overall selection, and the Canadiens are in an interesting stage of their rebuild/re-tool.

With the first overall selection in the 2022 Draft, the Canadiens selected Slovak Winger, Juraj Slafkovsky. will have every opportunity to make the Canadiens’ opening night roster. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound left wing had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 31 regular-season games for TPS in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, and seven points (two goals, five assists) in 18 playoff games. Slafkovsky was also voted the most valuable player of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, when he scored seven goals to help Slovakia win the bronze medal. He brings an excellent blend of size and skill especially at his position and age. With excellent protection skills and ability to create plays off the wing and the half wall, he can provide effective offense with his sneaky good hands. And if you aren’t ready for it he will walk right past you with a simple move. With a rocket of a shot, he likes to move to the slot and fire or get into the dirty scoring areas and get those grimmy goals in front of the net. He will add great offensive talent at such a young age who could pair nicely with Suzuki and Caufield. 

Their lineup has a mix of veteran talent like Brendan Gallagher and Mike Hoffman and new young stars led by Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, and the newly acquired Kirby Dach. The 21-year-old center was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2022 NHL Draft on July 7th for the No. 13 and No. 66 pick. Dach was selected by the Hawks with the number three pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. He has a large frame, skates well for his size and is strong on the puck.  He is also a surprisingly strong passer but needs to take more shots. Unfortunately for his young career, it has been riddled with injuries, including a broken wrist. Dach isn’t a physically imposing player, but can be taught how to use his physical gifts to help him without becoming just a power hitter. His game away from the puck in his own zone showed improvement over the course of last season. He is already a good net-front presence offensively and can defend his own net front as well, which he won’t have to do too much of with the roster they have in Montreal. But most of all, Dach has the speed, the skill, and the vision to be a dangerous offensive player. All he needs is to develop consistency in that area, which can certainly be developed under the direction of newly extended coach Martin St. Louis.

The Canadiens have the potential to make solid improvements over last season with some of the other off-season additions they acquired. Mike Matheson was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 16 for defenseman Jeff Petry and forward Ryan Poehling. Matheson is a very mobile and aggressive defenseman with good offensive abilities. Matheson just needs to improve his defensive-zone coverage and his positioning in sticky situations to make that major leap for his career. Luckily for the Canadiens, he can play big minutes in any situation, which adds necessary depth with the loss of Shea Weber. Weber, who is 36, has captained the Canadiens since 2018 but did not play last season because of multiple injuries and was moved to long-term injured reserve. Weber was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights on June 16th for forward Evgenii Dadonov. Dadonov had 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 78 games last season, which is a major addition for their forward group to add a goal-scorer like him to their top six. The main concern the Canadiens have going into this season is clarity at goaltending.

Carey Price returned to make five starts at the end of last season, yet he still has question marks surrounding his knee which remains a formidable obstacle in shaping Montreal’s roster. Jake Allen last season through 35 games had a poor record 9-20-0 with a GAA of 3.30 and a SV% of .905. Yet, despite the poor numbers, he was serviceable for one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL last season. As long as the Canadiens either A.) find a solid starter or B.) have Carey Price come back healthy, they will improve sduring next season.

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