The Montreal Canadiens were not making the playoffs when the season was abruptly ended. That makes what they did in the extended postseason even more special. Their qualifying round win over the Pittsburgh Penguins caught pretty much every NHL Analyst off guard, myself included.
Nobody gave them a hope in hell, and rightly so. However, after beating the Penguins they bowed out valiantly at the next stage to the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite that loss, the performances will have given their fan base much-needed belief heading into the 2021 season.
Youth Gone Wild
The performances of Nick Suzuki (7 points) and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (4 goals) during those postseason games will be what buoys the fanbase the most. Suzuki had a decent debut season with 41 points in 71 games. Kotkaniemi’s regular season was a struggle with injuries, playing only 36 regular-season games, but he came alive in the Playoffs. With both 21 years old or younger general manager Marc Bergevin will believe the future is bright for the 24 time Stanley Cup Champions.
The Canadiens will also be buoyed by the performance of Jonathan Drouin who after an injury-hit season put up seven points in ten postseason games. Drouin has failed to live up to the hype of being the third overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft (aka the Nathan MacKinnon Draft) by the Tampa Bay Lightning. With last year’s injuries, it was not a surprise to see his name circulating in trade rumors at the deadline. However, his postseason performances will give the Canadiens hope they may still yet see the best of Drouin.
Now let’s get to the real reason the Montreal Canadiens beat the Penguins and fought valiantly against the Flyers… Carey Price. His .936 save percentage in the postseason and 1.78 goals-against average meant the Canadiens felt like they could continue pushing the envelope even in tight games. If Price can have a regular-season anywhere even close to those numbers the Canadiens will be a force to be reckoned with in the North Division.
The trade of Josh Anderson for Maxi Domi with the Columbus Blue Jackets was probably the biggest offseason move made by Bergevin. Domi didn’t hit the heights expected with the Canadiens and they will be hoping Anderson adds a different dynamic to the team. The fact they had talent coming up in the center position most likely made the move a lot easier to make.
Tyler Toffoli was another shrewd pickup given the direction this team is taking. Toffoli joined the Vancouver Canucks at February’s trade deadline, but as an unrestricted free agent, it was always going to be hard for Vancouver to hold on to him. Toffoli will add a veteran presence to the team with the know-how of how to win it all, having won the Stanley Cup with the LA Kings in 2014
Jake Allen was the third big-name pick up during the offseason from the St Louis Blues. Allen outperformed Blues starter Jordan Binnington in the regular season and Playoffs, but with cap hell bearing down on general manager Doug Armstrong they dealt him for a third and seventh-round pick. As goaltending tandems become increasingly more important the Canadiens one-two punch could be as effective as any in the league.
I don’t know if it’s necessarily a loss considering what came back the other way, but Max Domi is the highest-profile loss this offseason for the Canadiens. Despite having a big 2018-19 season with 72 points in 82 games Domi regressed last season and had a poor playoffs with only 3 points in 10 games. The Canadiens decided he wasn’t worth the money as a restricted free agent and traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Projected Forward Lines:
|Jonathan Drouin||Jesperi Kotkaniemi||Josh Anderson|
|Tomas Tatar||Nick Suzuki||Tyler Toffoli|
|Paul Byron||Phillip Danault||Brendan Gallagher|
|Michael Frolik||Jordan Weal||Corey Perry|
Projected Defensive Lines:
|Joel Edmundson||Shea Weber|
|Ben Chiarot||Jeff Petry|
|Brett Kulak||Alexander Romanov|
There’s no doubt the youth of Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi is the future of this franchise, but they have enough veteran players around the team to give anyone in the North Division a real test. I like the Anderson for Domi trade. While they are two different players, for what the Montreal Canadiens need Anderson could be perfect. Plus when you have Carey Price in net anything is possible.
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