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Previewing the East: Montreal

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT – The Red Wings are moving to the Eastern Conference next season where they will be reunited with a trio of Original Six rivals (Boston, Montreal and Toronto) in a division that also includes Buffalo, Florida, Ottawa and Tampa Bay.

Throughout the summer,'s Bill Roose will take an analytical look at a different Eastern Conference team. This week it's the Montreal Canadiens:


2013 Record: 29-14-5
Head Coach: Michel Therrien (fifth season, second straight)
Home Rink: Bell Centre
Red Wings All-Time Record vs. MON: 201-271-96-0
2013-14 Games: Jan. 24 @ DET; Feb. 26 @ MON; Mar. 27 @ DET; Apr. 5 @ MON.

Pending Unrestricted Free Agents: Centers Jeff Halpern and Petteri Nokelainen.
Pending Restricted Free Agents: None.
Free Agents Lost: Right wing Michael Ryder, defensemen Yannick Weber and Frederic St-Denis.
Free Agents Gained: Right wing Daniel Briere, center Nick Tarnasky, and defenseman Douglas Murray.

In five career starts against the Detroit, Canadiens goalie Carey Price has posted a 2-2-1 record with a 2.36 GAA. (Photo by Dave Reginek)

Not since 2007-08 have the Montreal Canadiens finished first or second in the Eastern Conference.

Though they didn’t have a single player finish among the NHL’s top 20 scorers, the Canadiens managed to tie for fourth in the league with 3.04 goals per game, and grabbed the No. 2 berth in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They had the most balanced offense in the league with eight different players registering at double-digit goals. No other team in the NHL had that many players with 10-plus goals.

However, the Canadiens struggled to keep the puck out of their own net late in the season and into the five-game playoff series against Ottawa. The Canadiens jumped out of the gate with a 20-5-5 record, allowing 2.5 goals in first two months of the season. But they really bottomed out in April, surrendered almost 3.1 goals in the final 14 games of the regular season.

In the off-season they acquired some toughness in George Parros from Florida. The 33-year-old fourth line winger, who will drop the gloves with anybody, is playing for his fifth team in eight NHL seasons. The Canadiens also signed Daniel Briere to a two-year contract after the Flyers cut ties with the Quebec native, who once amassed 95 points in a season.

Offensively, Montreal returns a solid top line that accumulated 43 goals between Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. Plekanec is one of the best centermen in the league, winning nearly 51 percent of his face-offs last season, and Pacioretty is a dangerous sniper, finishing seventh in the league with 163 shots, just 10 behind the Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg.

The Canadiens also have a couple of rising stars in center Alex Galchenyuk and right wing Brendan Gallagher. The third overall draft pick in 2012, Galchenyuk was among six Canadiens to appear in all 48 games last season. He also led Montreal with a plus-14 rating while netting nine goals and a respectful 27 points. Meanwhile, Gallagher was a Calder Trophy finalist, who played juniors with Red Wings prospect Marek Tvrdon in Vancouver. Gallagher’s 15 goals tied him for the team lead with Pacioretty.

Clearly, if there’s a question about the Canadiens entering the upcoming season is might be with the goaltender. Veteran Carey Price finished 29th among NHL goalies with a 2.59 goals-against average, a category that he has lost traction in over the last three seasons. His .905 save percentage was worst, finishing tied for 34th in the league.

A positive on the defense is that Montreal has the luxury of returning the 2013 Norris Trophy winner in P.K. Subban, the first Montreal player to win the award as the NHL’s best defenseman since Chris Chelios won his first prize in 1989. The Canadiens need Andrei Markov to bounce back from a so-so season, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt for newcomer Douglas Murray to make an impact with his stay-at-home style.

– Montreal led the NHL in number of three-goal wins during the 2013 season, which equaled the Canadiens three-goal win production from the previous 82-game campaign. Six of the wins came against four different playoff-bound teams. Two of those teams – Toronto and the New York Rangers – they beat twice by three-goal margins.

– The Canadiens ranked No. 27 in the league in total penalties, including 201 minor infractions, which was third most in the NHL. Montreal averaged 13.2 minutes in penalties in ’13. Of course, the penalty kill suffered as opponents were 35-of-173 against the Canadiens’ special teams unit. … It didn’t get better in the playoffs, either, as the Canadiens collected 185 PIM in their five-game series against Ottawa.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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