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31 in 31

Three questions facing Montreal Canadiens

Power-play production, left side of defense among concerns

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Montreal Canadiens.

 

[Canadiens 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]

 

1. Can the power play improve?

The Canadiens power play was 30th in the NHL last season (13.2 percent), ahead of only the Nashville Predators (12.9 percent).

Montreal's lack of power-play production was surprising considering it had Shea Weber, who has scored almost half of his NHL goals with the man-advantage (99 of 203) on the first unit, and Jeff Petry (34 power-play points the past two seasons) on the second unit. Between them, the two right-shot defensemen accounted for eight of the Canadiens' 31 goals in 234 power-play opportunities, including Weber's Montreal-leading five.

With no significant outside additions and the departure of forward Andrew Shaw, a significant net-front presence, look for center Jesperi Kotkaniemi and forward Joel Armia to each have a more prominent role. More will also be expected from forward Jonathan Drouin, who led the Canadiens with 16 power-play points (three goals, 13 assists), and forwards Max Domi, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher, who each scored four power-play goals.

"It's been addressed internally with the coaches," general manager Marc Bergevin said at the 2019 NHL Draft. "I expect to be a lot better."

 

2. Will they be able to balance the left side of the defense with the right?

A left-shot defenseman with puck-moving abilities remains high on Montreal's wish list.

As of now, Weber likely will be paired with left-shot defenseman Victor Mete, who has been in that role since making his NHL debut as an 18-year-old in the 2017-18 season.

Newcomer Ben Chiarot is also a possibility to be paired with Weber, though he's more likely to jostle with Brett Kulak to partner with Petry on the second pair.

"Defensemen need to be able to join the rush and move the puck," Chiarot said. "And so I've developed my game and used that, and it's become a stronger part of my game."

Video: 31 in 31: Montreal Canadiens 2019-20 season preview

 

3. Can players repeat their offensive production from last season?

Gallagher scored an NHL career-high 33 goals in his seventh season after he had 31 in 2017-18, and his 52 points were two fewer than his career high, set in 2017-18. 

Domi (72 points; 28 goals, 44 assists), Tatar (58 points; 25 goals, 33 assists) and Phillip Danault (53 points; 12 goals, 41 assists) each had his most productive NHL season. Petry increased his NHL career high in points (46) for the third straight season and set new highs with 13 goals and 33 assists. 

A breakthrough performance by Drouin, whose 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) last season matched his previous NHL high, set with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016-17, would help, as would a strong second season by Kotkaniemi, who had 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 79 games as an 18-year-old rookie.

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