Brendan Gallagher

It’s Montreal Canadiens Day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens. 

2018-19
44-30-8, 96 points (4th in Atlantic Division, 9th in Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: Did not qualify

IN:
Ben Chiarot
Nick Cousins
Keith Kinkaid

OUT:
Jordie Benn
Andrew Shaw
Nicolas Deslauriers
Antti Niemi

RE-SIGNED:
Christian Folin
Artturi Lehkonen
Joel Armia
Charles Hudon
Jordan Weal
Mike Reilly
Brett Kulak
Nate Thompson

2018-19 Summary

Close but no cigar. Despite putting up 96 points in 2018-19, the Montreal Canadiens failed to make the playoffs. It was close, but they were eventually eliminated on the final Friday of the regular season when the Columbus Blue Jackets clinched the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Even though they didn’t make the playoffs, last season wasn’t a total failure for an organization that appeared to be in shambles the previous year. Habs general manager Marc Bergevin moved captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights for Tomas Tatar, top prospect Nick Suzuki and a second-round draft pick and he also shipped Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi. Both trades couldn’t have worked out any better for Montreal. Tatar gave the Canadiens a 25-goal and 58-point season, Suzuki had a great year in junior and could make the club this year and Domi ended up leaving the team in scoring, while Galchenyuk has already been traded again.

The difference between last season and this season, is that the public’s expectations were in the toilet coming into 2018-19. Those expectations will be much, much higher this year. Missing the playoffs by a hair won’t be good enough.

“I knew we’d have a better team this season [with the changes that were made], but what I really like is the character. We’ve come from behind in a lot games. That didn’t happen last year. I’m proud of that,” Bergevin said last January, per the team’s website. “Hats off to the players and the coaches. We started at zero and I think we’re heading in the right direction.

[MORE: X-factor | Under Pressure | Three questions]

The Canadiens got off to a good start last year, which was surprising considering the fact that Shea Weber missed the first two months of the season. Carey Price, who needs to be on top of his game for this team to have a chance to play meaningful games in the spring, had a rough month of November, but he was terrific when they needed him down the stretch. Those two veterans will obviously be key for the Habs. If they can stay healthy, Montreal will have a chance.

Brenden Gallagher ended up being their only 30-goal scorer last year (he had 33), but they got depth scoring from all over the lineup. Domi and Tatar were the only two Habs to surpass the 20-goal mark, but nine other players hit double figures in goals.

The downside to all that, is that a few of those players had great years by their standards and they still missed the playoffs. Can they do it all over again and then some?

One of the players who surprisingly stuck with the team all year, was 2018 third overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He finished with 11 goals and 34 points in 79 games as an 18-year-old in the NHL. He has all the potential in the world and he may become that true number one center the organization has been looking for for years. If he can take a big step forward in his second year, the Habs will be much better for it.

In the end, Bergevin and his staff  got the benefit of the doubt because they seemingly turned this ship around in one year. That won’t be the case if they fail to make it back to the postseason this time around.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Montreal Canadiens ’15-16 Outlook

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The Montreal Canadiens feature two of the things you look for in a championship contender: an elite goalie (Carey Price) and an outstanding, versatile defenseman (P.K. Subban).

Management seems pretty even-keeled about the team’s flaws, especially on offense. Perhaps a division title (not to mention league-wide trends of lower scoring) can breed patience/complacency.*

To most people, P.K. Subban (26 years old) and Carey Price (28) still seem enviably fresh-faced, yet it’s important to remember that windows of greatness can close with cruel quickness in sports.

One can reasonably expect goalies to age a bit more gracefully, yet Price would need to stand on his head to top the award-hogging season he generated in 2014-15. Subban may still have some upside even considering his current level of brilliance, but for how long will either one remain elite?

Look, it’s true that the Canadiens boast a ton of players who are in or around their primes. Max Pacioretty is just 26. Alex Galchenyuk could rocket up the charts, as he’s only 21, while Brendan Gallagher could very well pester for more than a decade considering the fact that he’s merely 23. Heck, Alexander Semin isn’t even that old at 31.

Even so, there’s a cut-off point where a slow-and-steady approach risks throwing away the best years of two of the most talented players on the planet.

If the coming 2015-16 season isn’t a pivotal one for GM Marc Bergevin to decide if he has the right supporting cast around Subban and Price – coach included – then it sure should be.

* – Feel free to use whichever word you think applies to Habs’ management.

It sounds like Pacioretty’s knee is recovering well

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Max Pacioretty is renowned for getting injured often yet recovering with seemingly mutant powers, so it’s not too surprising that his injury update is optimistic.

“Wolverine” is doing well when it comes to his knee injury rehab, as the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs reports:

There wasn’t an update regarding Pacioretty sharpening his adamantium claws, however.

Speaking of bad jokes, he appeared in this amusing comedy club video, although fellow Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher fared a little better:

Then again, Gallagher has more experience yapping, so you’d expect him to boast superior comic delivery, right?

Jonathan Quick turned some heads with his effusive praise of Pacioretty, 26, yet the American winger needs to heal up to show how underrated he really is. We’ll still need to wait and see if he’s ready for the start of the 2015-16 season (the prognosis was a three-month recovery back in June), but the early outlook seems promising.

PHT Morning Skate: Guy Lafleur believes Gallagher should be the Habs’ next captain

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The Montreal Canadiens played the 2014-15 season without a captain after Brian Gionta signed in Buffalo as a free agent. Habs legend Guy Lafleur believes when the club does appoint a new leader it should be forward Brendan Gallagher wearing the ‘C’.

“A captain shouldn’t be chosen on the amount of goals he’s going to score,” Lafleur told the Montreal Gazette. “That guy (Gallagher) really impressed me every night I saw him play. He’s aggressive, he wants to win. He gets some bad shots from opponents, he takes a lot of hits and there’s not too many guys on the team that work like he does.” (Montreal Gazette)

With salary cap issues looming, Mike Milbury discusses the potential roster turnover the Chicago Blackhawks face.

Red Wings’ prospect Tom McCollum proving his worth with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins in the Calder Cup playoffs. (Detroit Free Press)

Newly hired Flyers’ coach Dave Hakstol owes the University of North Dakota $100,000 for taking NHL gig. (Grand Forks Herald)

The Montreal Canadiens brass has been out at the Memorial Cup this week watching, among others, prospect goaltender Zach Fucale. The Habs front office won’t be happy with the performance they saw from Fucale on Wednesday night. The 20-year-old was pulled after allowing four goals on 25 shots and his Quebec Remparts fell 4-0 to the Rimouski Oceanic. (Sportsnet)

Here’s another look at the Blackhawks’ 5-2 win in Game 6 on Wednesday night:

With Matt Beleskey scoring 45 seconds into overtime in Game 5 on Monday night, The Hockey News takes a look at the fastest five playoff overtime winners. (The Hockey News)

Therrien disappointed Habs were ‘physically and mentally’ drained in Game 6

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Despite rallying back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 6, Montreal didn’t fare well against Tampa Bay tonight. With his team eliminated, Canadiens bench boss Michel Therrien offered a harsh assessment of what happened.

“I felt that physically and mentally we were drained. It’s disappointing but I guess those things happen,” Therrien said, per the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs.

Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban partially echoed that sentiment by stating, “We knew they were going to come out with their best effort tonight and we didn’t match it.”

They seem to differ regarding where Montreal’s stands overall though. The Canadiens have won their division in two of the last three years and have advanced to at least the second round in back-to-back campaigns, but Therrien still sees them as a transitional team.

“I can’t focus on saying we need to wait a couple of years before we can contend,” Subban countered, according to NHL.com’s Аrpon Basu. “We need to contend now.”

Carey Price will turn 28 in August, Subban celebrates his 26th birthday on Wednesday, and Max Pacioretty will be 27 in November. That’s the core of the team and with that in mind, the Canadiens should be in win now mode. At the same time, forwards Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk are just starting to come into their own and perhaps they’ll be the difference in a couple years.

Montreal could certainly use the offensive help as it averaged a pedestrian 2.61 goals per game in the regular season and that went down to 2.08 in the playoffs.