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Historic starts

Last three solid starts to the season combine to make NHL history

by Joanie Godin @canadiensmtl / canadiens.com, translated by Steven Nechay

Even after 107 years, the Canadiens continue to find ways to make hockey history.

With Thursday's win against Tampa -- the Habs' sixth in a row -- Montreal became the only NHL team to win at least seven of its first eight games three years in a row, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

A season ago, the Habs opened their campaign with a franchise-best 9-0-0 record. The year prior to that, the team started 7-1-0.

This time around, there are a number of factors that can explain the Canadiens' hot start out of the gates.

The Canadiens dominate the league not just in the standings (first overall), but also for the number of goals scored (29) and the fewest number of goals allowed (12). The club also currently enjoys the NHL's fourth-best penalty kill (90.3%), and has dished out the sixth-most hits (182) and blocked shots (120).

Individually, the new additions have paid off, too. Shea Weber boasts a league-best plus-12 differential, and leads the Habs with nine points (3G-6A).

And even though the two seasons prior to 2014-15 don't make the cut when it comes to the record books, they're also worth another look -- with the Habs having gone 5-2-0 in 2013-14 and 6-2-0 in 2012-13.

That strong starts are trending doesn't surprise captain Max Pacioretty.

"We've had five great teams, and we've gone deep [into the playoffs] with almost all of them. It's up to us now to prove that last year was a fluke. We have new faces in the room, but I think the reason for those strong starts is the quality of our team," explained the American winger.

One constant the Canadiens have been able to count on in all five of those seasons is stellar goaltending from Carey Price.

This year, Michel Therrien's men have also benefited from a brilliant backup, as Al Montoya has racked up a 3-0-1 record to go along with a 1.47 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage early on -- including one shutout.

Price, meanwhile, looks like his old self after playing just 12 games a season ago, putting up a perfect 4-0-0 record so far, with a 1.51 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.

Here's how the 29-year-old has fared seven games in, during the previous four campaigns:

2015-16: 7-0-0, 1.29 GAA and .961 SV%
2014-15: 6-1-0, 2.67 GAA and .913 SV%
2013-14: 4-3-0, 2.01 GAA and .940 SV%
2012-13: 6-1-0, 1.70 GAA and .938 SV%

Round out the ingredients with an offense that has been scoring an average of 3.63 goals per game this season and it's clear the Habs have found a recipe for success.

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