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November Crucial to Canadiens Success

After what transpired last season, the Montreal Canadiens knew they weren’t going to catch anyone off guard this time around. While in general players play harder against teams like Montreal because they know people will hear about their performance, many underestimated the Habs last year. In 2013-14, after winning the Northeast Division, Montreal have a target on their back that they haven’t had with this intensity since their centennial season.

With the roster Montreal currently has, this would mean they needed to be firing on all cylinders if they wanted to replicate their success from last season, or guarantee a playoff position for that matter. It didn’t seem that the team could afford any cylinders working at half power, or being out of commission for a long time, or playing their bimonthly game of chicken with the end boards.

Simply put, the fact that the Canadiens have been without Max Pacioretty, Brian Gionta, Brandon Prust, Douglas Murray, Alexei Emelin, Daniel Briere, George Parros and Davis Drewiske for stretches this season has reflected on their mediocrity. It also underlines the importance of this next month to the team’s overall success. Staying in contention for a playoff position during the month of November while missing some of their best players is crucial to the club’s playoff hopes.

The main positive for Montreal so far this season has been the play of Carey Price, who most would consider the crucial cog in the bleu, blanc et rouge machine. Montreal has only lost one game this year by more than one goal, and that is full credit to Price playing his best hockey. He bolsters a .937 SV% and a 2.12 GAA with one shutout, but the best part about Price’s game is he’s given his team a chance to win every game they’ve played thus far.

As is usually the case when a team suffers plenty of the injuries, the 2013-14 season has taught Montreal some unexpected things about some of their youngsters. For one, Michael Bournival is ready for the NHL level. The rookie has filled in nicely with the injuries to Pacioretty, Briere and Prust and has provided plenty of speed on the wing with Tomas Plekanec. Nathan Beaulieu has impressed as well this season. His passing and skating are both assets that should help him develop into a top four NHL defenseman within the next few years. He also brings a much needed replacement for Francois Boullion on the second powerplay unit.

Should Montreal be able to remain in contention come the start of November, help is on the way. Douglas Murray and George Parros have both been on the gamesheet recently which means they could see actual game time very soon. Alexei Emelin is due back in December and already appears to be ahead of the injury schedule that the Canadiens set for him after surgery. Both Pacioretty and Parros should be back by December as well, and will look to add an infusion of offense into the Canadiens lineup.

But they can’t allow themselves to fall too far behind, or the hill to climb back into contention will become too steep. If Montreal can maintain a better than .500 record going into December than things should turn out alright. The team is currently 6-5-0, but their upcoming schedule is much tougher. They have the underperforming Rangers, followed by the Stars, Wild, Avalanche, Blues and Senators. It doesn’t get easier either, as Montreal has four back-to-back Friday and Saturday games in November.  During these games the Canadiens will truly show whether or not last season was a mirage.


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Main photo credit: clydeorama via photopin cc


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