The 2015-2016 National Hockey League season saw the Montreal Canadiens start off like gang busters. The Canadiens won their first nine games of the season which paved the way for their 19-4-3 start. And this hot start by the Habs had the folks in Montreal thinking about the Stanley Cup Title. But all of the talk about the Canadiens and the Stanley Cup was short lived as goalie Carey Price would suffer a knee injury that put him on the shelf for the remainder of the season. What the Canadiens would lose in Price was the Hart Memorial Trophy winner in 2015 as the NHL’s MVP, and the Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goalie. And Price’s impact would show as without him, the Canadiens went into a tailspin which led to them missing the playoffs. But Montreal is no different than any other team in the NHL as hope would spring eternal for them when the new season began.
Price has entered the current season healthy and rejuvenated and the results can be seen in the Habs record. The Canadiens record of 30-15-7 has them in first place in the Atlantic Division with a comfortable lead over the second place Ottawa Senators as they once again appear to be the team to beat within that division.
Price’s return has stabilized things for Montreal as they are seventh in goals against average this season at 2.48. And as for Price, his .922 save percentage is ninth in the National Hockey League, while his 2.33 goals against average is 10th. Price’s return has taken some of the stress off of Montreal’s offense whose 2.98 goals for average is seventh is the NHL as the Canadiens are a very balanced team.
Barring Price missing an extended period of time once more, the Canadiens are not only on pace to make the playoffs, but to also be a force while there. Having a goalie that can dominate between the pipes is a prerequisite for any team that expects to advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs which is something that the Canadiens have. Although that Price only has a pair if shutouts to his name this season, his return has given Montreal opponents something to be weary about as he is still one of the best in the business which was illustrated by his appearance in the All-Star Game this past Sunday. And any chance that the Habs will have in the spring will rely on Price being dialed in as the team’s top net minder.
After being eliminated by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring, it appeared that the Montreal Canadiens would be destined for bigger things in the current National Hockey League season. The Canadiens began this season by winning their first nine games, and on November 27, their record was 18-4-2. But as good as the first two months of the campaign were in Montreal, the last two have been equally bad as they’ve gone 6-18-2 since. And where it appeared that the Habs were going to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, they now find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture at the All-Star break.
Since November 28, the Canadiens have failed to win consecutive games while offensively they’ve been held to two goals or less in all but three contests which makes the fact that they are currently tenth in the National Hockey League this season in goals per game at 2.66 a bit misleading as most of that damage was done in October and November.
The Canadiens problems began when goalie Carey Price was lost to a lower-body injury on November 28. Price came into this season as the reigning MVP in the National Hockey League and his presence has been sorely missed as he sets the tone for everything that Montreal is able to do on the ice. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has made a few minor deals recently in an effort to spark this team which included acquiring goalie Ben Scrivens from the Edmonton Oilers to somehow fill the void for the injured Price , but right now nothing can jump start this team. Michel Therrien is in his fourth year as the Canadiens head coach, and he appears to have run into a bit of a rut with his squad as it has only been losing and frustration that are currently filling up the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Even without the presence of Price between the pipes, the Habs still have star power in the form of All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban and left winger Max Pacioretty, but these two alone have been unable to get Montreal back on track.
The National Hockey League’s All-Star break could not have come at a better time for the Canadiens as this is a team that simply needs a break from hockey right now being that they need to get back on track.
After beginning the second half of the regular season on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Canadiens will be home for four consecutive games, but they need to get it going as the other teams that are ahead of them in the Atlantic Division are playing solid hockey right now and they cannot afford to fall any further back in the standings. This month has seen Price re-take the ice in rehab with an eye towards returning to the team soon as this is a team that is really desperate for a rallying cry. It won’t take that much for the Habs to get it going again, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.