Montreal Canadiens Facing Long Odds to Make NHL Playoffs
It has been 26 years since a Canadiens team, never mind a Canadian team, has won the Stanley Cup. According to the oddsmakers, fans of the Original Six Montreal Canadiens will have to wait at least another season before the Cup returns to the city in which the sport of hockey was founded.
At 888sport, oddsmakers are leaning toward the Habs missing the playoffs in 2019-20. The odds are -122 on "no" to the postseason, with "yes" at +100. There are certainly teams with worse odds than that, so Canadiens fans will count their blessings, maybe. But, Montreal is a city that is tired of waiting.
The Canadiens, the franchise that dominated the NHL for so long in the Original Six days, then into the 1970s, last won the Cup in 1993. No Canadian team has won it since.
Montreal had a pretty good season in 2018-19, going 44-30-8, for 96 points. That is more points than three Western Conference teams that made the playoffs, but in the East, that was good for only a ninth-place showing.
Goalie Carey Price Remains Elite
Montreal's best player continues to be goalie Carey Price, who had a fine season with a .918 saves percentage. He almost got the Canadiens into the postseason, and the way things went overall in the last playoffs, anything might have happened had a goalie of his caliber been able to play.
It seems like Price has been around forever, but he's still just 32 and usually goalies can play effectively into their mid-to-late 30s with the kind of talent and smarts he possesses.
The defense in front of him isn't bad, with Brett Kulak and Jeff Petry a nice top-two pairing, and Victor Mete and Shea Weber below them. Weber, hurt for a good chunk of last season, may have lost a step or two but his slap shot is still lethal on the power play and he's no fun to play against in front of the net.
Coach Claude Julien prefers tight, defensive hockey and he always seems to have his teams in games right to the end. Question is, can the Habs score enough goals to win just a few more than the 44 of last year?
Will the real Jonathan Drouin Please Stand Up?
What the Canadiens could really use is a big year from Jonathan Drouin. Acquired from Tampa Bay in 2017 for Mikhail Sergachev, Drouin subsequently signed a six-year, $33 million contract and big things were expected. But his play has mostly been mediocre through the first two seasons. He posted 18 goals and 53 points in 81 games for Montreal last year, but he has the talent to score more than that.
Newcomer Max Domi was a very pleasant surprise in his first year coming over from Arizona, with 72 points in 82 games. No other Habs player scored more than 58 points, however, and GM Marc Bergevin seemed to have struck out in attempts to land a big scorer over the summer (including a failed attempt at getting Sebastian Aho from Carolina via offer sheet).
The Habs selected talented, U.S. National Development team forward Cole Caulfield with the 15th overall pick in June's draft, but he's probably a year or two away from seriously competing for an NHL job.
So, for another year at least, it looks as if Montreal's hopes will mostly rest with Price and the defense in front of him. It should be another very competitive team. But a Cup winner, or even a playoff team?
The odds are against it.
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