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Hab or Hab not- review


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 PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS Zip. Nada. Nuttin. The Canadiens were written off as a mix of old and young, neither particularly good or interesting. Everyone saw them battling for the basement in a top heavy division.


FINAL RECORD 44-30-8 96 points missed the playoffs by one single point.


HIGH POINT OF THE YEAR They started hot and stayed in contention all year with most everyone saying they were going to fade to also rans they refused to listen. In late March they moved 3 points up for a wild card over both Carolina and Columbus with a 3 game winning streak by a combined score of 14-5 over the 3 games.


LOW POINT OF THE YEAR Over the next three games they lost both to Carolina and Columbus, the Jackets game 6-2. Although they hung around they were eliminated on the next to last day of the season. Those two losses essentially ended their season.


WHAT WENT RIGHT lets start with Price being healthy and appearing in 66 games, what a difference that makes for this team. Domi came over and was the real deal providing grit and scoring. Tatar came as partial payment for Pax and had a damn solid year. Danault, Drouin and Gallagher all had fine years. Andrew Shaw (remember him?) came back from the dead to have his best ever offensive season. Shea Weber came back when everyone wrote him off and his booming slapper changed the power play. I cannot overstate what Jeff Petry does for this defense, he is everywhere in all situations and is among the most underrated players in the game. Kotkaniemi as a rookie showed flashes of brilliance. Lunch pail guys like Paul Byron, Joel Armia and Brett Kulak were all contributors. Perhaps the biggest and most underted addition to the team was Coach Claude Julien who pushed every button correctly all year.


WHAT WENT WRONG Well they missed the playoffs in a year in which all four wild card teams won at least one round. Antti Niemi was dreadful as the backup tender. They really never established a center rotation, just kept throwing in a bunch of wingers like Drouin, Danault and Domi into the middle by default which seldom works but worked okay for them. The 4th line was dreadful most of the year, at one point they had went almost two months without a goal from a fourth liner forcing the team to constantly add on the fly guys like Nate Thompson and Jordan Weal. They are still paying the price both monetarily and body wise for the poor signings of Alzner and Schlemko.


FREE AGENTS Niemi almost certainly is done not only in Montreal but in the NHL, Jordie Benn was useful on the back end and they would like him back.


OFFSEASON QUESTION MARKS After coming so close and just missing the playoffs, can they build off of it going forward or was it an illusion? Can they find a legit backup for Price so they dont wear him out down the stretch? Will Kotkaniemi take the next step and be the desperately needed 1C? Will Jullsen finally develop into that top four defender he has been much hyped to be?


 Overall even barely missing the playoffs the team has to be satisfied, almost every move worked, Julien, Domi, Kotkaniemi, Tatar all came aboard with question marks and all worked out. That usually doesn't happen and so there has to be a bit of fear of a dead cat bounce but overall this was a fantastic season for Montreal.

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