Canadians’ long-term Stanley Cup bid builds on impact of Carey Price

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MONTREAL – As painful as it can be for the Montreal Canadiens and their supporters to look back at the first 71 games of a season which all seemed to end in a third consecutive absence in the playoffs, this is an essential exercise to perform before we start. look forward.

When the NHL hit the pause button in the second week of March due to the risks associated with the new coronavirus, the Canadians were almost finished. They suffered two streaks of eight losses at the start which proved devastating, they lost all four games against a team of the Detroit Red Wings which has won only 13 times in their 67 other competitions, and they did not managed to gain ground on several teams ahead of them. in the classification of the Eastern Conference which had left the door open to the playoffs with its own losing spells.

It was not that bad.

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Nick Suzuki has established himself as one of the best NHL rookies, and two other picks in the 2017 draft, Cale Fleury and Ryan Poehling, got their feet wet at the highest level in hockey. The Canadians established themselves as a 5 against 5 juggernaut with the league’s second attempt differential and generated the second most dangerous scoring chances.

But the fact that they finished 13th both in the 5 against 5 goals and in the 5 against 5 differential demonstrates their ineffectiveness in capitalizing on the odds and highlights some of the problems they faced. defend their own end. It also indicates that goalkeepers are largely inconsistent throughout and not up to par during parts of the season.

Speaking of not being up to par: Montreal’s power play, which had shown signs of life at the start of the season after a pathetic offer in 2018-19, had produced less than any other team in the February 1 league to March 11. , during the same period, the Canadians’ penalty had managed to eliminate only 79.3% of his penalties, which was the 20th best on the circuit of 31 teams.

Their special teams reflected precisely where they were, mentally speaking, when the season was interrupted: with 11 games left and a 10 point deficit in the standings to overcome, the Canadians were disheartened, oppressed and feared they would have to wait no longer to be put out of their misery.

But that’s all in the past now.

What will four months away from the ice offer Canadians – or any other team – in terms of perspective? What will be the benefits of extended rest for them both physically and psychologically? What will be the unexpected opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup?

There are many unknowns here.

But the unknown should be a welcome commodity for Canadians and their supporters, especially given all that we have learned about the team from October to March.

Here are some of their key scenarios for the future…

Max Domi Availability

The 25-year-old, who suffers from type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, is in the middle of a wait of seven to ten days, awaiting the authorization of doctors to play.

Domi has produced 17 goals and 44 points in 71 games this season after scoring 28 goals and 72 points in the 2018-19 season. If Canadians don’t have it – especially in the middle – their chances of advancing after the game turn are very poor to dismal.

The Carey Price factor

We know that the specter of playing against the future 33-year-old was a big part of why some teams fought the fact that the eight teams that were on the playoff bubble when the season was interrupted are participating in this tournament for the Stanley Cup. Now the question is whether Price will deliver the type of performance that stands up to its reputation?

In 58 games with the Canadiens this season, the Anahim Lake, BC native had a save percentage of .909 and an average of 2.79. These are not exactly numbers that would scare an opponent.

But if the Canadians get the prize that posted a .933 save percentage and 1.86 goals-against-average in their last playoff appearance (in 2017), be careful.

Defense?

The idea of ​​having Shea Weber 100% must be comforting for a Canadiens team that has not had the benefit of having their captain rested and healthy for many games since being traded to Montreal in the summer of 2016.

Beyond Weber, Ben Chiarot must pick up where he left off: the 6 feet 3 inches and 225 pounds have reached career highs in terms of goals, points and average time on ice in 69 games.

Ditto for Jeff Petry, who scored at least 40 points for a third consecutive season.

After that, it gets a little risky.

Can Brett Kulak be a # 4 stable after a top-down season? Can Victor Mete, 22, take a crucial step in his development and produce more offense? Can one of Noah Juulsen or Fleury be reliable enough to play above Christian Folin in hierarchical order?

There are depth issues here, especially on the left side of the defense. Karl Alzner chose not to come back to play this summer, which leaves Gustav Olofsson and Xavier Ouellet in competition as options.

When you look at the sum of the parts, it’s hard to see this as a team strength.

Who will score the goals?

Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher each had 22 goals to lead the Canadians this season, but they are both on the same line.

This means that Jonathan Drouin, Joel Armia, Paul Byron, Artturi Lehkonen, Suzuki and Domi (if available) will need to provide this crucial secondary boost.

The fact that Domi leads this group with 17 goals highlights the concern that Montreal may have in this department.



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