Montreal Canadiens season preview
The Montreal Canadiens are fully committed to the rebuild and despite a ton of injuries, last season was a step in the right direction for this young group. The expectations for Montreal won’t be very high yet again, but there are some bright spots and the team should perform a little bit better than they did in 2022-23.
The Canadiens were missing two very important offensive players for half of the 2022-23 season. Cole Caufield only appeared in 46 games (26 goals, 10 assists) and the first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Juraj Slafkovsky, only skated in 39 games (4 goals, 6 assists). To no surprise, this team finished at the bottom of many offensive categories such as high-danger chances per 60 (10.24) as well as shots on goal per game (27.3) and power play percentage (16.1%).
The Canadiens’ first line consisting of Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach should be a fun one to watch, but after that, this team doesn’t pose much of an offensive threat. They brought in a young Stanley Cup champion in Alex Newhook, which was a strong acquisition, but it doesn’t necessarily move the needle.
To no surprise, Montreal was one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL last season as they found themselves in the bottom five of multiple categories such as goals against per game (3.72) as well as scoring chances against per 60 (33.57). The names on the Canadiens blue line don’t necessarily jump out off the page and considering that they didn’t make the core any stronger this offseason, I see Montreal struggling in their own end again this season.
Montreal is running it back with the same goaltending trio that they had in 2022-23. Jake Allen (39 starts) and Sam Montembeault (41 starts) will split most of the time in the blue paint yet again, but don’t sleep on Cayden Primeau who could potentially see some action this season. Montembeault was Montreal’s best goalie last season based on numbers, but his performance was subpar as he skated to a .901 save percentage and a 3.42 goals against average. The Canadiens goaltending won’t steal them many wins.
Player To Watch – F Cole Caufield
The former Hobey Baker Trophy winner has yet to play a full 82-game season, but he has shown an unbelievable scoring touch early on in his NHL career. If Caufield were able to stay healthy last season, there was no doubt that he was going to score 40+ goals. In 46 games, he already had 26 goals, and I feel strongly that his ceiling is extremely high. Caufield has thrived under head coach Martin St. Louis, and even if the expectations for the team aren’t high, there is still a standard to meet for the Canadiens young talented forward.
Montreal finished at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and I suspect that they’ll finish in the exact same position. They should take another step in the right direction, especially that first line of Caufield, Suzuki, and Dach. I’d say they’re a couple of years away from competing for a playoff spot.