It was an awful ride, riven by injuries, poor management, underachievement and for fans, broken dreams.
The Canadiens finished with 71 points, 32 fewer than last season. It might have been somewhat better if the injuries hadn’t piled up in the final 40 games but right from training camp there was a feeling that this was a poorly constructed team that was going to have problems winning games.
They tied a team record in Toronto with their 40th loss in regulation time. They won only 11 of 41 road games which also ties a team record.
From December 22nd when they were actually a game over .500, they were the worst team in the league winning 13 of 46 games. In the final two months of the season they were unable to beat any team that made the playoffs.
Arizona also lost it’s final game so the top end of the draft lottery is set. The Canadiens are fourth behind Buffalo, Ottawa and Arizona. Depending on how the balls fall, the worst the Canadiens can do is draft seventh.
Chances of the Canadiens winning the number one pick are listed at 9.5%: (Buffalo’s chances are 18.5%). Their chances of drafting in the top three are 28.8%.
Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin is in a class by himself. I’m told by scouts that the next six have potential to be high impact players. After that there is another talent drop-off. At least the Canadiens will drafting somewhere in that top seven. We’ll know exactly where April 28th.
THE WAY THEY ARE
One can only hope that Marc Bergevin doesn’t think that whatever small improvements in the play of Jonathan Drouin through the final month of the season, or the increased on-ice awareness of Alex Galchenyuk means he doesn’t have to address the team-gutting void at centre ice during the off-season. Only Buffalo and Arizona scored fewer goals than the Canadiens and most of that is directly attributable to the black hole up the middle.
The Canadiens started their season with defencemen Mark Streit, Joe Morrow and Brandon Davidson on their roster. At the end of the season things look a little more promising with Noah Juulsen, Victor Mete joining Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Karl Alzner.
Mike Reilly shows a little promise. But we were saying the same thing about Jordie Benn about this time last year and we were very wrong.
Carey Price looked pretty good again in this game, at least up until the time he gifted the puck to Patrick Marleau with 10 seconds left.
Chronic fatigue issues and a concussion were only a part of his miserable season. On many nights the defence in front of him looked AHL calibre. We can hope for a bounce back.
His backup will be an interesting decision. Do the Canadiens put all their eggs in the Charlie Lindgren basket or try to re-sign Antti Niemi?
In my opinion, based on not only his play in the NHL but also his ups and downs in Laval, Lindgren is not quite ready for prime time.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….The bar is never set very high for Mike McCarron but I thought he may have played his best game this season. Unfortunately, he nullified many of the good things he accomplished by taking an offensive zone slashing penalty early in the third period and then his lack of speed against Auston Matthews caused him to take a late-game tripping penalty that led to the game winning power play goal.
….I mentioned Mike Reilly earlier. He makes a lot of mistakes but he has speed and he has a shot. He tied for the team lead with five shots on goal in the game.
….The league’s worst penalty killers on the road gave up two more in this game. Talent or lack of it is obviously an issue. But I wonder about the coaching staff Claude Julien has behind him. Julien inherited them. Would he be better-helped being able to bring in coaches he is comfortable with.
….To me, after watching him against the Canadiens, the thought of bringing Tomas Plekanec back to Montreal for another season is a non-starter. Plekanec for most of the night was up against the McCarron line and the McCarron line dominated. Were Plekanec to return Jacob de la Rose would be out of a job. Absolutely no sense to that.
…..Brendan Gallagher finished his season the way he started it. Five of his eight shot attempts were on goal. He assisted on the second goal.
Dates to remember.
April 28th, the draft lottery in Toronto.
June 22nd, 23rd in Dallas. The Canadiens have their first rounder and four picks in the second round and a total of nine choices through the first four rounds.
July first – Free agency with centres John Tavares and Paul Stastny among the most-wanted.