As Michel Therrien spoke with the assembled media on the fifth floor of Madison Square Garden on the night of May 29, his pain was unmistakable.
Speaking softly after he stood behind the visitors' bench and watched his fellow Montreal Canadiens end their season with a 1-0 loss in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final to the New York Rangers, Therrien acknowledged the hurt of a dream deferred.
''It's really tough,'' Therrien said, ''talking about the entire season, because when you get close to achieving a goal it hurts, and it hurts more when you're close.''
In the same breath, though, Therrien expressed satisfaction with the first Canadiens team to advance to the conference final since 2009-10.
''But I've got to look (at) the season, and we made some progress this year,'' Therrien said. ''I'm proud of this hockey team. We battled hard through the regular season and we battled hard in the playoffs.''
Montreal opens its season on the road Oct. 8 at Toronto and here are some things to keep in mind:
IS THE PRICE RIGHT?: The Eastern Conference Final shifted dramatically 23:15 into Game One when New York Rangers left winger Chris Kreider collided with Canadiens goaltender Carey Price in a high speed, goalmouth collision. Price stayed on the ice for an additional 16:45 before exiting the series with a knee injury. In offseason interviews, Price told reporters he didn't begin skating until August.
LEADERSHIP BY COMMITTEE: The question asked of the Canadiens once captain Brian Gionta and alternate captain Josh Georges left for Buffalo was who will fill the leadership void. General Manager Marc Bergevin and Therrien determined prior to the start of training camp the best course of action was to select a four player panel--defensemen Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban, forwards Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty--to serve as alternate captains. ''It's a good decision for everybody,'' Markov said after the decision was announced. ''Now we can focus on hockey.''
CENTER OF ATTENTION: One of the criticisms of the Canadiens is their size or lack thereof. In an attempt to address the issue, Bergevin told a reporter the Canadiens plan to ''start (Alex Galchenyuk) in training camp at center. We want to see where he's at. We know sometimes it's harder for a young player to (play) center in the NHL, especially down low. But with two years under his belt, we want to evaluate where he's at in the center position and then we'll make a decision.''
MALHOTRA IN THE MIDDLE: The Canadiens were a middle-of-the-pack team in 2013-14 in the faceoff circle, finishing 17th in the NHL with a 49.6 winning percentage in the dots. In an effort to remedy that flaw, Montreal signed Manny Malhotra to a one-year deal. Malhotra won 59.4 percent of the faceoffs he took in 69 games with Carolina.
PARENTEAU PRODUCTION: Despite the presence of Subban and Pacioretty, the Canadiens ranked in the bottom third of NHL teams in goals per game, finishing with a 2.55 goals per game average. Montreal traded for P.A. Parenteau in the offseason improve the offensive attack. Parenteau has recorded 205 points in 291 NHL games with Chicago, the Rangers, the New York Islanders and Colorado.