The Montreal Canadiens earned the final automatic playoff-birth in the Atlantic Division with 100 points and a 46-28-8 record. Just a single point back of the Tampa Bay Lightning for home ice, the Canadiens were 4th in the Eastern Conference and had the 9th-best record league-wide.
After a largely successful regular season, the Habs took their game up a notch and performed exceptionally well in a playoff run that took them to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Canadiens were surely aided by the absence of Vezina-threat, Ben Bishop, in their first round matchup against the Lightning, but Montreal looked like the far superior team in a four-game sweep. In a round two series against Eastern Conference favorites, the Boston Bruins, the Canadiens exercised some demons by winning a seven-game series in what was nothing less than a commendable effort. After enjoying a matchup against a backup in round one, the Hockey Gods seemingly evened things up in round three when Carey Price was sidelined for the series after being involved in a collision in game 1. The absence of their season MVP proved too much to overcome, with New York winning the series on home ice in game 6.
- Max Pacioretty exploded for 39 goals, the 4th-highest output in the NHL. The total he mustered up in just 73 games played ranks him only behind Alex Ovechkin in goals/game among those who qualified. The goals he scored also proved to be valuable, ranking first among skaters with 11 GWG.
- P.K. Subban proved that his Norris trophy victory during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season was no fluke by following it up with a solid 2013-14 season. Subban has cemented himself in the conversation of the best defenceman in the NHL and paired his rugged defensive play with with 53 points (10 G, 43 A), 5th among d-men. He was also Montreal’s best skater in their second-round upset of the Boston Bruins and put up 15 points in 16 playoff games, elevating his game when it really counted.
- Speaking of players cementing themselves among the best at their position, Carey Price followed in his teammate’s footsteps by arguably declaring himself the best goalie in the NHL not named Henrik Lundqvist. In addition to being nearly perfect in Team Canada’s gold medal run in Sochi, Price was a calming force for the Habs skaters all season long and his regular season numbers of 2.32 GAA, .927 SV%, 34 W and 6 SO back up any opinions that he’s among the NHL’s elite.
- After seemingly unraveling in last season’s first-round upset loss to Ottawa, the status of Head Coach Michel Therrien was somewhat up in the air going into the season. After enjoying another solid regular season under the coach, Therrien was a completely different man behind the bench this time around during the playoffs, not giving in to any mind games or tactics and leading his team to a nice playoff run.
- With the New York Islanders desperate to at least salvage something for their expiring asset that was Thomas Vanek, Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens took advantage of the situation and snatched up the forward late on deadline day for just a conditional second and prospect, Sebastian Collberg. The trade looked fantastic at the time, with the Habs giving up next to nothing for a player they thought could put them over the top in the Eastern Conference. Now although the cost was low, the experiment did not go as planned. After putting up a respectable 15 points in 18 regular season games in Montreal, Vanek vanished at times during the playoffs and was either relegated to the 4th line or outright benched at various moments, especially during a tough seven-game series versus Montreal’s rivals in Boston.
PROGNOSIS FOR NEXT SEASON
After missing the Stanley Cup Finals by just two wins last season, it seems like a possibility that Montreal could improve on their 2013-14 campaign. With a core group that includes the likes of Max Pacioretty, Tomas Pleanec, PK Subban, Andrei Markov, and Carey Price, Montreal surely has the talent to replicate their 2013-14 regular season. If young players like Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Michael Bournival, Nathan Beaulieu, and Jarred Tinordi can further develop this upcoming season, home ice and even a top seed in the Easter Conference are up for grabs. It will also be interesting to see how the additions of PA Parenteau and Manny Malhotra can help an offense that was unbalanced, at times, last year.