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2021 Atlantic Season Preview: What are you, Montreal?

A team vaguely resembling this one made it all the way to the cup finals. After that, they seemed intent on never going there again.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens

Last Season Record: 24-21-11

Last Season Point Total: 59

Key Departures: Jon Merril, Michael Frolik, Philip Danault, Erik Staal, Corey Perry, Tomas Tatar, Shea Weber (to injury), Erik Gustafsson, Jesperi Kotkaniemi (due to Tom Dundon throwing a rich person hissy fit)

Key Additions: Christian Dvorak, David Savard, Chris Wideman, Matthieu Perrault, Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette

Whatever I say about this godforsaken team probably bought and sold by Bloc Quebecois lunatics who want to be creepily invasive with their hockey club, I can only guarantee that the Montreal Canadiens will almost assuredly piss you off this year like they do every single time these two teams come together. The Canes and Red Wings come bearing weird games for the Bruins. That’s fine, I can do weird, weird is something I can work with. I don’t like games where the Bruins simply shut their brains off and play down to their competition, and nobody is as good at making the Bruins do that as the Canadiens.

Now the kind of person who believes in the narrative arc of a hockey team will say that this is a team to watch out for. They got so close as to give the impression they’re missing something. Maybe they might’ve been right about that. But the Lightning sorted that out pretty damn quick, didn’t they.

It seems that the SCF loss was so demoralizing that Marc Bergevin decided that it was time for the next era of Habs Hockey to start right the hell now rather than wait for further reinforcements of what made them good in the first place; exceptional defense supplemented with a bunch of grade schooler sized forwards who score goals. And those grade schooler sized forwards will be scoring goals. Lotta the old guys have been left out on an ice flow to be picked up by other teams, and so Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki have been officially anointed the new bright future for the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge and they have some wicked talent to back it up; the Josh Anderson bet looks better with each passing minute, Drouin will be coming back after a spell of attempting to deal with the villain known as Anxiety, Gallagher will be there, Mike Hoffman...exists...? and they’ve rounded out their bottom line with Mathieu Perreault from the Jets organization; a defense-first center who will be in charge of keeping Lehkonen and Armia up to snuff. If you wanted a top line and a bottom line has been set since before camp started, you couldn’t do better than that.

But then...you look at those middle six lines and suddenly begin to scratch your head. Jake Evans? Right out of the gate? I mean, Suzuki and Caufield proved that they can jump into this no problem, but that’s kind of a leap for the kid to be 3C for an entire regular season, even if he has the two best candidates for “wingers who can lead the line” possible. Further...Christian Dvorak? After losing Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the Habs went out and acquired the ex-Coyote to fill the void and y’know what? Sure. He could use the change of scenery and the Habs play a better system than the Yotes. But is he really 2C material in Montreal? He struggled with that kind of responsibility in AZ, and even if you think he might be better than Kotkaniemi now (in which case, you probably work for the Habs), he’s going to be a real question mark. Especially given who he’s being asked to replace; Philip Danault.

Danault, while not scoring much last year, was a genuinely phenomenal defensive talent the likes of which was instrumental to allowing Montreal to do as well as they did in the playoffs last year.

But they’ll also be critically down one very important piece: Shea Weber. But actually? I think their situation already got a lot worse by losing Victor Mete as well. The Habs D is just kinda...there. Oh sure, Jeff Petry and Joel Edmundson are...decent offensive options, but when it comes to getting transition, muscling dudes out, and getting the puck back, the best you can probably say about them is that “they’re big”. League’s filling up with smaller but much thicker dudes these days. They may be in for a rough time.

Finally, we come to the goalies. Jake Allen is “sir-not-appearing-in-this-film” unless they absolutely need to use him, and Carey Price. Good ol’ Carey. Carey Price. He’s almost assuredly on the downswing of his career, finally coming back down to mortal-ish levels after years of being a Vezina finalist simply by stepping onto the ice. He’s still got some of that Price magic in there, but there’s less of it than there has been.

While MTL will have to contend with a lot of gambles on their GM’s part (join the club, we’ve got jackets), I’m more than confident in saying this squad will get close, but not all the way. But definitely close. Next year or next trade deadline will prove if they figure out what they need to improve on.

And each and every game the B’s-Habs play this year will write a brand new stupid chapter in this rivalry.

HOT TAEK: Suzuki misses a couple weeks due to a Day-to-Day injury and they lose every single game he’s out.