Kotkaniemi, Drouin could make a big difference for Habs
With the Montreal Canadiens season starting on Oct. 3, it’s the time of year to get super hyped about the Habs, only to be let down come November.
This year, I have a different type of anticipation for the team’s first NHL game of the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs. I really don’t know what to expect from these Canadiens, with many new and young players on the roster.
After finishing last season with a 29-40-13 record and fourth-last in the league, general manager Marc Bergevin made several changes. Skilled forward Alex Galchenyuk was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for playmaker Max Domi, while captain Max Pacioretty was shipped off to Vegas for forwards Tomas Tatar and Nick Suzuki, plus a draft pick.
Heading into training camp, I kept thinking how bad the Canadiens would be this year. They didn’t do anything over the summer to make the team better. It looked like they would be heading into a phase of rebuilding, relying on their young players and not worrying about the results.
However, when I started watching them in preseason, the Canadiens looked like a completely different team on the ice. This team can skate, pass and defend well enough. In seven preseason games, they finished with a 4-3 record, scoring 21 goals and allowing 18. I don’t look too much into preseason stats, but they had a 2-6 record a year ago and sucked for the rest of the season.
The offence impressed me the most during the preseason. For so many years, the Habs were known for their lack of scoring. But with Jonathan Drouin moved to the wing, 18-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi playing like a 27-year-old veteran, and Tatar returning to his Detroit Red Wings form, I don’t think the Canadiens will have a scoring problem this season.
Hunger—that’s the biggest difference for this year’s Habs, and it could be what makes them a good team.
The Canadiens will also need to rely on goalie Carey Price to be better than last season. When he won the Vezina and Hart trophies in 2014-15, the Canadiens were a top team in the league. All good teams have good goaltending, and the Canadiens need that from him.
I still think the Montreal Canadiens 2018-19 season will be without playoffs, but they could surprise us.