The Montreal Canadiens failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive season.

Montreal (29-34-12) was eliminated from contention when it lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

The Canadiens reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2021, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games. They qualified in nine of 11 seasons between 2004 and 2015 but have reached the postseason in only three of the past nine.

Here is a look at what happened in the 2023-24 season for the Canadiens and why things could be better next season.

The skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Tanner Pearson, F; Colin White, F

Potential restricted free agents: Jesse Ylönen, F; Arber Xhekaj, D

Potential 2024 Draft picks: 12

What went wrong

Injuries: Montreal's rebuilding plan took a considerable hit in the first period of the second game of the season when center Kirby Dach sustained a season-ending right knee injury. Just 21 games later, center Alex Newhook sustained a high ankle sprain that put him on the shelf for 27 games. On Dec. 30, center Christian Dvorak sustained a torn pectoral muscle and was ruled out for the remainder of the season five days later. The key losses limited what coach Martin St. Louis had to work with down the middle.

Sputtering offense: Despite playing just 47 games this season, Newhook is tied with Brendan Gallagher and Juraj Slafkovsky for fourth on the team with 10 even-strength goals. Only Nick Suzuki (21 goals in 75 games), Cole Caufield (14, 75) and Joel Armia (14, 59) have more. The Canadiens are 27th in the NHL, averaging 2.73 goals per game. And they're scoring 17.2 percent of the time on the power play, 26th in the League.

Three's company: Montreal had a three-goalie rotation all season until it traded Jake Allen to the New Jersey Devils on March 8. GM Kent Hughes didn't want to expose one of either Allen, Cayden Primeau or Sam Montembeault to waivers fearing he'd lose one and get nothing in return before reassigning him to Laval of the American Hockey League. Montembeault, who signed a three-year contract extension on Dec. 1, was supposed to receive a heavier workload this season but that never really materialized. The 27-year-old is 15-14-7 with a 3.03 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. Primeau is 8-8-2 with a 2.93 GAA and .908 save percentage. Allen went 6-12-3 (3.65 GAA, .892 save percentage).

Reasons for optimism

Slafkovsky rebounds: Juraj Slafkovsky's rookie season was mired by injuries in 2022-23 when he scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 39 games, but the 20-year-old left wing rebounded this season. The No. 1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft ranks fourth on the club with 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 75 games. Additionally, he is third with 134 hits, and seventh with 26 takeaways and six with 66 blocked shots while averaging 17:51 of ice time, which is fourth among Montreal forwards. Slafkovsky played most of the season on the top line with Suzuki and Caufield, a trio that will likely stick in 2024-25.

MTL@VAN: Slafkovsky gets Canadiens on the board with deflection

Draft capital: Not only are the Canadiens in good shape to select plenty of talent in the 2024 NHL Draft with 12 picks, including two in the first round, but they're in the running for a top-5 pick. They're unlikely to have the best chance at expected No. 1 pick Macklin Celebrini, but they do have a shot.

Prospering prospects: There's plenty to get excited about with the pipeline of players within the organization. Forward Filip Mesar, selected No. 26 in the 2022 draft, had 52 points (19 goals, 33 assists) in 45 games with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League. Forward Owen Beck, selected in the second round (No. 33) of the 2022 draft, had 81 points (34 goals, 47 assists) with Peterborough and Saginaw of the OHL, and Boston University defenseman Lane Hutson (No. 62, 2022 draft) was a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA Division I men's hockey player of the year after getting 49 points (15 goals, 34 assists) in 37 games as a sophomore in Hockey East. Defenseman David Reinbacher (No. 5, 2023 NHL Draft) has 11 points (10 assists) in 35 games with Kloten in Switzerland's top professional men's league.