An A to Z Guide to the Montreal Canadiens
In honor of back to school week, except of course in beautiful BC, I have decided to create an A to Z guide for your Montreal Canadiens. Feel free to join in and come up with your own ideas for what each letter of the alphabet can stand for. Here we go.
A is for Assists. Generally to score a goal, someone has to pass the puck. Last season, Subban led the team with 43 assists. This is not surprising since he has a cannon for a shot and has a good breakout pass. As a team, the Habs need to better their offensive numbers if they want to succeed.
B is for Blocked Shots. Sometimes the best save is not made by the goalie but by a defending player fearlessly diving in front of a shot. In today’s NHL blocking a shot is such an essential skill. Montreal led the league in blocked shots last season with a whopping 1491 blocked shots.
C is for Carey Price. Price is coming off his best season as a starter. He led Team Canada gold at the 2014 Olympics He led the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference final where he was injured. You know he’s going to be hungry to repeat the stellar team and to prove that last season was no fluke. Despite all he accomplished last season, Price will always have his detractors who question whether he can win the big game or will always be prone to meltdowns. Until he wins the Stanley Cup, he’ll always have someone to prove wrong.
D is for Draft picks. The draft can shape the direction of a team, as well as adding pieces to a potential trade for a coveted player. This year, the Canadiens drafted Daniel Audette, son of former NHLer Donald Audette. Former draft picks currently in the lineup for the Habs include, Price, Subban, and Brendan Gallagher
E is for Even Strength. The vast majority of the time, hockey games are played at even strength (5 on 5 or 4 on 4). When both teams had an equal number of players of the ice last season, the Canadiens scored 155 times and allowed 150 goals giving them an even strength ratio of 1.03, good for 14th in the NHL. Ideally the Habs would like to improve on that by scoring a few more goals and allowing their opponents a few less.
F is for Face-offs. Arguably, the faceoff is the most important play in hockey because it determines which team gets control of the puck first. In 2013-14, the Canadiens won 49.6% of their face-offs as a team, putting them in the middle of the league standings. The Habs will need to improve upon this stat. Unfortunately their best faceoff man Thomas Vanek signed with the Minnesota Wild. Fortunately they signed Manny Malhotra who is strong in the faceoff dot
G is for Goals To win a hockey game you have to score at least one more goal than your opponent. As a team, the Canadiens scored 209 goals or an average of 2.55/game, good for 21st in the league. Max Pacioretty scored the most goals individually with 39 in the 2013-14 season. By not scoring a lot of goals, the Habs put a lot of pressure on the defense and Carey Price. Thankfully for them, Price had a great season last year but as a rule, you need at least three goals in a game to win most nights. Teams are excellent at coming back and the referees tend to give teams every opportunity to come back by calling more penalties against the leading team, warranted or not.
H is for Hits. A big hit can change the outcome of a game by waking up a tired team. Also, a big hit can potentially injure a key opponent or at the very least make them know that you’re there. Last season the Habs were 20th in the NHL with 1722 hits. Interestingly the team that led the league in hits with 2609 won the Stanley Cup. This proves the value of a good hit. However, hits must be done intelligently. A player shouldn’t be running out of position to hit a player, otherwise that can lead to a grade A scoring chance. Individually, defenseman Alexei Emelin led the way with 189 hits.
I is for Injury. With a long season comes the inevitably of injuries. What makes a team great is it’s ability to overcome key players or role players being lost due to injury. What happens if Carey Price goes down with an injury as he did in last year’s playoffs? As demonstrated in the third round of the playoffs vs. the Rangers, the Habs have two goalies who can be relied on in Dustin Tokarski and Peter Budaj.
J is for Jussi Jokinen. While he is not a member of the Canadiens currently, I put him here because he is a master at an important aspect in today’s NHL: the shootout. The shootouts add an extra point to a win (at the end of regulation each team gets a point and the winner or OT or the shootout gets the extra point). This can mean the difference between making or not making the playoffs Love it or hate it, the tiebreaker is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Last season, the Canadiens were involved 9 shootouts winning 6 of them. In an odd twist, all 6 of the Habs shootout wins came on the road. This is rare because the home team gets the choice of whether to shoot first. Individually last season, David Desharnais was the Habs best shooter successful on 6 of his 13 attempts.
K is for Killing Penalties. It is imperative to be able to kill off penalties at a consistent level to have success in the NHL. Kill a penalty and momentum can shift your way. Allow a goal while shorthanded and you have to fight through the letdown and try to tie the game. Last season, the Canadiens killed off 85.1% of the penalties handed to them, good for 4th in the league, 3rd in the Eastern Conference. To be successful, the Canadiens will be relying on Price to stop any shots that reach him and the PK team to clear the puck out early and often.
L is for Losses. It is unrealistic for a team to go 82-0 in the regular season oor 16-0 in the playoffs because of the parity in the NHL. Instead, teams must minimize the number of losses and the length of losing streaks. Last season, the Canadiens lost 28 games and their longest losing streak was 4 games (November 1st-7th). Repeat that consistency and their chances of making the playoffs is great.
M is for Must-see games. With every team visiting the Bell Center at least once this season, fans will get to see every star, barring injury, at least once. Here are five must see games fans should mark on their calendars.
October 13 at Tampa Bay While the Canadiens made it look easy sweeping the Lightning in the 1st round last April, there will be a key difference this time around. Steven Stamkos should be fully recovered from his fractured leg and we all know how dangerous he is on a given night.
October 16th vs. Boston Bruins. Back in May, these two teams went head to head in a grueling, thrilling, seven game 2nd round playoff series which Montreal won by a hair in the Bruins home arena. You know the Bruins will be looking to exact some revenge.
October 25 vs. NY Rangers. It’s the Canadiens turn to exact some revenge on the team that eliminated them from playoff contention. The Habs fought hard but the Rangers speed and tenacity proved to be too much to handle.
November 4th vs. Chicago Blackhawks. Another powerful team in the ultra competitive Western Conference. The Blackhawks lost in the Western Conference finals to LA last season and won the Stanley Cup the season previous to that. Chicago has a stacked lineup that can score, defend and their goalie can stop the puck.
December 12 vs. LA Kings This is your typical measuring stick game. The defending champs, who have won the Stanley Cup twice in three season, are in town. The Canadiens will have to be playing their best hockey if they want to beat this juggernaut team.
N is for Newcomers to the team. As training camp approaches, the Canadiens will be welcoming several new faces to the fold. Center Manny Malhotra signed on July 1st. He will be centering the 3rd or 4th line as well as taking key faceoffs throughout the game. Minor league goalie Joey MacDonald was added to compete for the backup job with Budaj and Tokarski. Defenseman Tom Gilbert signed a two-year deal. He’ll be competing for a top-four defense pairing spot. Welcome to the team and good luck in the new season!
O is for Outgoing players. Sadly, Habs fans will see several players wearing a different team’s uniform having left via free agency and/or trade. On July 1st, the Habs traded the rights to Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges to Buffalo. The two will return to the Bell Center when the Sabres visit the Bell Center on November 29. LW Tomas Vanek inked a three year deal with the Minnesota Wild (returns November 8). RW Mike Blunden signed a two-way deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning (returns March 10, assuming he is in the NHL). Goalie Devon Dubnyk signed with the Arizona Coyotes (returns February 1st). LW Nick Tarnasky signed a two-year deal with the NY Rangers (returns October 25). Finally, C Ryan White signed with the Philadelphia Flyers (returns November 15). Happy trails and good luck to all the players mentioned above.
P is for Power Play. Equally as important to killing off penalties is taking advantage of the times when you are up a man. Not only can a PP goal extend or give your team the lead if the game is tied, it can also spark much needed momentum. Last season the Canadiens scored on 17.7% of its PP chances, putting them 19th in the NHL. They’ll need to improve that number if they want to be successful as a team this season.
Q is for Qualify for the playoffs. In order to have a chance at winning the Stanley Cup, Montreal must first either be one of the top three teams in the Altantic division, or battle it out with 9 other teams for the two wildcard spots. The Canadiens are best to try and be in the top three in the Atlantic division rather than risking
R is for Rookies. Generally every team has at least one rookie, defined as a player either playing his first full season or having < 1 full year of NHL experience. Last year 22-year-old Alex Galchenyuk was the team’s rookie. He finished with 13 goals and 18 assists. This year, you are likely to see the likes of Gabriel Dumont, Stefan Fournier, and Greg Pateryn as injuries occur or prospects make good impressions during training camp to the coaching staff.
S is for Subban, PK. 2013 Norris Trophy winner for the NHL’s top defenseman, just 25 years old and best of all signed for the next 8 seasons. A reminder, Subban is only entering his 5th season in the NHL. He possesses a booming slap shot, has great leadership qualities and has the tenacity to carry this team to great things. He will be considered very highly to be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens. Habs fans salivate because Subban is already a stellar defenseman and he will only get better with time.
T is for The Fans. Montreal boasts one of the loudest, most intimidating arenas to play in. Every home game, the atmosphere is incredible. When the team is winning, the fans are singing. And when the team is losing, the fans are still cheering loudly. The home record of 23-13-9 (10th in the NHL) last year reflects that atmosphere
U is for Unity. Hockey is a team sport. You win together you lose together. Teams that are successful move the puck efficiently and opponents have a hard time getting it back. This process starts in training camp and continues on the road when players get a chance to bond.
V is for Victory as in the ultimate prize (Stanley Cup). Of course this is the goal of every team but only one team can ultimately win the big prize. The Canadiens came close last season, making it to the Eastern Conference final. This season they will be in tough having lost key players via trade (Gionta) and free agency (Vanek). They will rely heavily on keeping the puck out of their net and hopefully get just enough scoring to win most nights. Once again, the West is looking very tough and deep.
W is for Weise, Dale. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Vancouver Canucks in 2013, Weise was a big contributor in the playoffs scoring clutch goals left, right and center. The question is can he do it on a consistent basis or will he revert back to the player that takes bad penalties and is hesitant physically. To be successful, Weise has to use his size to his advantage and score the odd goal.
X is for X-Factor. For the Habs, the X factor is their speed. They need to use it to their advantage if they want to win consistently. I call it the X factor because the Habs speed has caught many a team by surprise and it can be such a spark to the offense. The Habs speed gets opponents chasing the puck causing them to haul down a Habs player just to prevent a scoring chance.
Y is for Youppi. Youppi is the Montreal Canadiens team mascot. His role is to keep the fans energy levels up and to represent the team as an organization at various events throughout the year. An interesting fact is Youppi was also the mascot of the Montreal Expos when Montreal had a pro baseball team.
Z is for Zdeno Chara. The 6’9” defenseman of the Boston Bruins became public enemy number 1 for this hit on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty on March 8, 2011. Montreal fans have never forgotten this incident and loudly boo Chara whenever he touches the puck when the Bruins play in Montreal.