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NHL - Montreal Canadiens 2018-19 season preview, rankings, projections, bold predictions, playoff chances

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-09-28 00:03:14

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

The Montreal Canadiens are on the road back to relevance following some big summer moves. How will they do this season?


How they finished in 2017-18: 29-40-13 (71 points), finished 28th in NHL, sixth in the Atlantic Division

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin didn't sufficiently address the departures of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov. Injuries to Max Pacioretty, Carey Price and Shea Weber all derailed the season. The Canadiens made the playoffs in 2017 and lost in the first round. But the following season's dud, in which Montreal was 29th out of 31 teams in goals scored, necessitated major changes this offseason.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 80.5

Best-case scenario: Carey Price is Carey Price again with a Vezina Trophy-caliber season that exponentially increases the number of standings points this group collects in the East -- and in the first year of his eight-year, $84-million extension no less.

Worst-case scenario: Price doesn't return to form; management blames a poor defense in front of him, but won't do anything substantial to address those concerns.

Forward overview: A much different look without Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty. It took a bit, but Jonathan Drouin found a comfort zone with Montreal (14 points in his last 19 games) after coming over in a controversial trade with the Lightning. The Habs hope the same happens with Max Domi, the winger they acquired from the Coyotes that they're trying to reform into a center. They added to the wings in Tomas Tatar and Joel Armia, joining Brendan Gallagher (31 goals). No. 3 overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi also has a chance to improve the offense at center. NHL rank: 28th

Defense overview: With Shea Weber out until at least December, this is an underwhelming group featuring Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Victor Mete, David Schlemko and Karl Alzner. NHL rank: 27th

Goalie overview: Price set the bar low for improvement with his worst season as an NHL starter in 2017-18. The sharks are circling as he begins his franchise player contract. Antti Niemi is his backup. NHL rank: 11th

Special teams: The Canadiens were 13th overall at 21.2 percent on the power play, although their leading PP scorer Galchenyuk was shipped out to Arizona. Montreal was 30th on the penalty kill (74.1 percent), as Price struggled to an .849 save percentage on the kill.

Pipeline overview: The Canadiens have a lot riding on Kotkaniemi being their future No. 1 center. He's a quality prospect who could make a major impact if he reaches his full potential. The Habs made 11 picks in 2018 and recently landed former Vegas Golden Knights draft pick Nick Suzuki in a trade that made a significant impact on their system, which was previously led by quality prospects Ryan Poehling and Noah Juulsen. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: With Shea Weber out until at least December, it's tough to consider him anything more than a late-round stash in drafts. In the meantime, Jeff Petry should resume his duties from last season as the power-play quarterback for the Canadiens, a job he performed reasonably well. With half a season of work as the top dog, he is worth picking as a D3 for fantasy. Read more -- Sean Allen

Coach on the hot seat? Claude Julien rallied Montreal to the playoffs when he replaced Michel Therrien in 2017, but oversaw one of the worst seasons for the Canadiens in his first full campaign. (Their .433 points percentage was their lowest since 2001.) He's got his work cut out for him again with this group.

Bold prediction: Domi actually works out at center and hits double digits in goals.

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