One season after finishing atop the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens must find goal scoring to stay in the race for the top seed.
COACH: Michel Therrien
2014-15 RECORD: 50-22-10, 110 points (first in Atlantic, lost to Lightning, 4-2, in second round
VITAL SIGNS: 2.61 goals-for per game (16th); 2.24 goals-against per game (1st); 16.5 power play pct. (23rd); 83.7 penalty kill pct. (9th); PDO: 101.7 (3rd); Corsi For pct.: 48.4 (23rd); Fenwick For pct.: 48.7 (22nd); face-off pct.: 52.1 (4th)
NOTABLE ARRIVALS: F Alex Semin, D Mark Barberio, F Zack Kassian
NOTABLE DEPARTURES: F Eric Tangradi, D Davis Drewiske, F P.A. Parenteau, F Brandon Prust
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Max Pacioretty – Tomas Plekanec – Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk – David Desharnais – Alex Semin
Devante Smith-Pelly – Lars Eller – Zack Kassian
Jacob de la Rose – Torrey Mitchell – Dale Weise
Andrei Markov – P.K. Subban
Nathan Beaulieu – Jeff Petry
Alexei Emelin – Tom Gilbert
Mark Barberio/Greg Pateryn
OUTLOOK:The reigning Eastern Conference champions might run into a few obstacles trying to repeat in 2015-16. Among the least of the Habs' worries is goalie Carey Price, who took an oversized leap into the elite class of netminders. The reigning winner of the Hart, Vezina and Jennings trophies posted 44-16-6 record with a 1.96 goals-against-average and .933 save percentage last season and will anchor the charge again. Dustin Tokarski may have the inside track as Price’s backup, but his hold on the job could be a bit more tenuous following upstart Mike Condon’s incredibly strong showing during the preseason.
While stopping pucks wasn't an issue, putting them in theie opponent’s net was a problem at times for Montreal, which ranked 16th in offense at 2.61 goals per game. The deficiency was exacerbated by an anemic power play, which fired at just 16.5%, the 23rd worst rate in the NHL despite featuring forwards Max Pacioretty (37 goals), Tomas Plekanec (26), Brendan Gallagher (24), Alex Galchenyuk (20) and defenseman P.K. Subban (15). The Canadiens' man-advantage looks even worse when factoring in its 5.5% success rate during the playoffs.
The Habs hope the answer to both of these problems is winger Alex Semin, the ultra-talented yet mercurial forward who has 40-goal capabilities but is coming off the worst season of his career. After being bought out by the Hurricanes in a costly divorce ($14 million during the next six years), Semin should be able to find motivation and provide top-six scoring, giving Montreal an added dimension and making the Canadiens that much more dangerous come playoff time.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Alex Galchenyuk
The third-overall pick in the 2012 draft has improved in each of his three NHL seasons, cracking the 20-goal plateau for the first time in 2014-15. The Wisconsin native is lauded for his defensive game in addition to his offensive skillset, meaning he”ll see plenty of top-six minutes and will have all the chances to improve upon his career high in goals.
PREDICTION: 100 points, second in Atlantic