Reviewing the disastrous 2021-22 Canadiens as Carey Price returns

Reviewing the disastrous 2021-22 Canadiens as Carey Price returns
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PHT’s “What Went Wrong?” series asks that question about teams who’ve been eliminated from the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Why did this team fall short, and how surprising was that fall? Are there signs that things might go right next season? This series tackles those questions, and more. In the latest edition of “What Went Wrong?,” PHT breaks down the 2021-22 Montreal Canadiens.

It’s a no-brainer to feel some disappointment if your team missed the playoffs this season. Even “tanking” teams probably aren’t feeling great right now. Still, no franchise fell quite as far as the Montreal Canadiens did in 2021-22.

Of course, last season, the Canadiens stunned by following a mediocre regular season with a surprising run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. Between now and then, the Canadiens (quite incredibly) changed their GM, coach, and ended up trade deadline sellers.

With Carey Price returning to face the Islanders on Friday, today seems like the right time to break down a stunningly bad 2021-22 season for the Canadiens.

Some expected heartache, just not this much

If you zoom out, the Canadiens missing the playoffs is a little less shocking. Heading into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they secured the North Division’s final playoff spot. This wasn’t some juggernaut during the longer haul of a full season.

Beyond that, Carey Price’s availability was murky at best before making this April 15 debut. Meanwhile, there’s open doubt about Shea Weber ever playing again.

Plenty of people chose the Canadiens to make the playoffs, yet the PHT staff unanimously picked them to fall short.

So, it’s not as though people were guaranteeing a great Habs follow-up.

Even so, few expected the Canadiens to end up this bad. The last team to be “eliminated” from the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the first to be eliminated during this regular season:

Why the 2021-22 Montreal Canadiens missed the playoffs

For a spell, the Canadiens showed a bit more life under interim head coach Martin St. Louis. While there may still be some positives to take from the last couple months, the overall numbers now look a lot like the results that ended Dominique Ducharme’s time with the Habs.

From the beginning of the season through Feb. 9 (date of Ducharme firing)

From the beginning of Feb. 10 – April 14

  • 12-13-4, .483 points percentage, 10th-worst in the NHL.
  • 91 goals for, 103 goals against.
  • Similar special teams (13.5 PP%, 77.3 PK%)
  • 29.8 SOG for per game, 34.6 per against.
  • More or less the same ugly underlying stats.

Under Claude Julien, the Canadiens were a team that hogged the puck, but struggled to complete the final part (actually putting the puck in the net). For all of the praise lavished on Carey Price over the years, there were times when goaltending dragged Julien-era Habs teams down.

Most of those underlying numbers fell apart this season.

Evolving Hockey’s team RAPM charts provide decent snapshots of what teams do well and not-so-well. Last season, the Canadiens defended well, but struggled on offense.

This season, they were weak (if not awful) across the board.


Yes, it stings to lose Carey Price and Shea Weber. It’s fair to guess that their two-way play suffered by letting Phillip Danault walk, too. Combine all of that with the struggles of Nick Suzuki and especially Cole Caufield, and a lot of things broke against the Canadiens in 2021-22.

Really, though, you can only make so many excuses. This was a very bad team, and most signs pointed toward a rebuild. Thankfully, Montreal embraced that reality at the trade deadline. By doing so, they likely accelerated the process to turn things around — but there’s a ton of work to do.

How different might next season’s Canadiens look compared to the 2021-22 version?

The Canadiens really did load up on futures (picks and prospects) at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

That said, you might call that “the easy part.” Just about any good team would’ve been wise to seek out Tyler Toffoli and Artturi Lehkonen. And while Ben Chiarot‘s actual value is up for debate, there was no denying that he drew a ton of interest.

Going forward, the Canadiens still have big pieces that could move. Even if they think Jeff Petry brings a lot to the table, his age (34) indicates that his best remaining years likely won’t line up with a Canadiens rebuild. It’s possible that certain players may ask out of a prolonged rebuild, though it’s hard to imagine that happening with Brendan Gallagher. (He’s about to complete the first season of a six-year contract.)

Could there be a market for the likes of David Savard? If not, might Montreal bribe a team like the Coyotes to take Savard off their hands? (And should they bother?)

[Trade deadline was a rare win for the 2021-22 Canadiens]

New Montreal management should be asking questions like those. They also need Carey Price to gauge his future. Is he ultimately going to be LTIR/retirement-bound? Before escrow, taxes, and other fees, Carey Price cost the Canadiens $13M ($11M in bonuses, $2M in salary) in 2021-22. That number drops considerably in the second portion of his contract.

Here’s what the costs look like, via Cap Friendly:

  • 2022-23: $6.75M in bonus, $1M in salary ($7.75M overall vs. $10.5M cap hit).
  • 2023-24: $6.5M bonus, $2M salary ($8.5M overall vs. $10.5M cap hit).
  • 2024-25: $5.5M bonus, $2M salary ($7.5M overall vs. $10.5M cap hit).
  • 2025-26: $5.5M bonus, $2M salary ($7.5M overall vs. $10.5M cap hit).

If Carey Price plays tonight, doesn’t feel right, and decides he’s finished, his contract could still appeal to teams wanting to get to the salary cap floor. You could even engineer it so that a wealthier team eats a signing bonus or two for the price of futures. And so on.

Whatever happens with Carey Price, the Canadiens need answers in a lot of areas, goaltending included. Price is 34, and his future is unsettled. Jake Allen is 31, and may be better off playing out his contract year with a contender.

For all of the long-term contracts he handed out, and all of the headlines he made, Marc Bergevin largely left the Canadiens with problems, and questions. Credit new management for already cleaning up some of the mess in 2021-22, but the Canadiens have a ton of work to do to rebuild, and really, to reset.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

    The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

    Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

    The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

    “I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

    Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

    Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

    At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

    “You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

    Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

    “He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

    Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

    The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

    Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

    “It was fine,” he quipped.

    Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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    Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports

    SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

    Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

    Game 4 is Saturday night.

    Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

    Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

    His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

    The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

    It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

    Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

    Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

    As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

    But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


    Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.

    Blackhawks, Athanasiou agree to 2-year, $8.5 million contract

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    CHICAGO — The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks locked in one of their top scorers, agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

    The 28-year-old Athanasiou tied for the team lead with 20 goals and ranked third with 40 points in his first season with Chicago. He matched career highs with four game-winning goals and three power-play goals.

    The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Athanasiou has 125 goals and 111 assists in 459 games with the Detroit Red Wings (2015-20), Edmonton Oilers (2020), Los Angeles Kings (2020-22) and Blackhawks.

    Chicago went 26-49-7 and finished last in the Central Division. The Blackhawks dealt Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline and announced in April they would not re-sign Jonathan Toews, parting with two players who led them to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

    Florida Panthers in familiar territory, backs to the wall once again down 0-2 in Stanley Cup Final

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sport

    SUNRISE, Fla. — The Panthers need a miracle. Again.

    Such is the story of Florida’s season, and it makes all the sense in the world that the plot has reappeared in the Stanley Cup Final. The Panthers needed a furious late-season push just to get into the playoffs as the lowest seed, then needed to win three consecutive elimination games to oust a record-setting Boston team in Round 1.

    And now, another huge challenge awaits. Down 2-0 in the title series to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Panthers return to home ice on Thursday night looking to spark one more epic turnaround and get right back in the hunt for hockey’s biggest prize.

    “Desperation and winning a game,” Florida veteran Marc Staal said. “We’ve approached every game in the playoffs the same way. We just try to take it – like everyone says – one at a time. But our backs are against the wall, obviously. We’re down by two. But we’re coming home. Love our team, love our resiliency. We’re going to go out and give our best effort and play our best game tomorrow and go from there.”

    To say the odds are stacked high against the Panthers is a bit of an understatement.

    – They’ve beaten Vegas in four of 12 all-time meetings between the franchises. And now they’ve got to beat them in four of the next five games to win the Cup.

    – They’ve been outscored 10-2 in the last four periods against Vegas.

    Matthew Tkachuk has two more misconduct penalties (three) than he has points (one, a goal) in the series.

    – Former Panthers Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith have as many goals so far in the series (four) as all the current Panthers do in the series, combined.

    – Vegas hasn’t dropped four out of five games since going 1-2-2 to start a six-game road swing that began in late January.

    – Teams that start a Stanley Cup Final with two home wins have won the Cup 38 times in 41 past instances.

    But by now, Florida’s penchant for pulling off the improbable is well-known. Almost expected, really.

    “Of course, we’ve had three really tough series,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “Boston is a good example. We were down, we found a way, we started playing a little better, we found a way to come back and get out of there. Same thing here – we’ve just got to work a little harder, work a little smarter and find a way to win games.”

    They’ve done it before.

    There was the 6-0-1 stretch late in the season to hold off Pittsburgh for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The winning three elimination games against a Boston team that had the best regular season in NHL history in Round 1; Game 5 there was on the road in overtime, Game 6 required a rally late in the third period to erase a 5-4 deficit and Game 7 was another road OT victory. There was a four-overtime win at Carolina in the East final, setting the table for a sweep where the Panthers got four one-goal wins and allowed only six goals.

    They’ve given up 12 goals in two games against Vegas. And it’s not all on Sergei Bobrovsky, either. Panthers coach Paul Maurice found it funny that it was considered a surprise to some that Bobrovsky – who carried Florida to the final round – will remain the starter for Game 3.

    “He was outstanding in Game 1,” Maurice said. “And he was as good as our team was in Game 2.”

    The message was simple: Everyone has to be better. The Panthers have a history of rising to those moments.

    “We never lose doubt in this room,” Florida forward Ryan Lomberg said. “Obviously, they’re a good team. They got here for a reason. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It’s kind of the theme of our whole year is we make it tough. Whether we wanted it this way or not, it’s this way, so we’ve got to play the hand we’re dealt now.”

    NOTES: Maurice said he expects D Radko Gudas, who left Game 2 injured, to play in Game 3. Forward Eetu Luostarinen will remain out. Maurice declined to offer specifics on Luostarinen’s injury, but quipped “he’s a good human.” … Thursday will be Florida’s first Stanley Cup Final game on home ice in FLA Live Arena. The Panthers’ 1996 final appearance was at a long-demolished arena in Miami.