22-year old Jarred Tinordi and 21-year-old Nathan Beaulieu, who have appeared in a combined 53 games for Montreal over the last two seasons. Goaltending Carey Price is one of the best goaltenders in the world, but everyone’s last glimpse of him was getting knocked out of game one of the Eastern Conference Finals. He has declared his right knee healthy and expects to have another solid season in net. His .927 save percentage ranked dourth in the NHL and he finished the regular season with a 2.32 GAA. The Canadiens have two potential backup goalies in Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski. The veteran Budaj got most of the playing time in the regular season and was solid in the role of spelling Price. But when Price went down in the playoffs, it was Tokarski that started Game 2 and was thrust into one of the game’s biggest stages. Although the Canadiens did not advance, Tokarski helped keep them in the series. Power Play The Canadiens struggled on the power-play and saw their percentage drop into the bottom half of the league at 17.2 percent after rising to over 20 percent the season before. The unit has been very up and down the past few seasons, so there is potential for them to bounce back. Pacioretty was the leading goal scorer on the unit with ten and his line-mate Gallagher was right behind him with eight. But the unit struggled to find other players that could put the puck in the net. With Briere gone, the Canadiens will need Desharnais, Plekanec and Sekac to step up in these important spots. At the point, Subban and Markov direct the power play. They were first and second on the team in power play points with 23 and 21, respectively, and they each finished the season with 19 power-play assists. Subban’s four power-play goals in the postseason were tied for the most in the NHL. P.K. Subban Canadiens Penalty Kill Rick Madonik/Toronto Star The penalty kill went in the opposite direction as the power play. The unit ranked fourth in the league with an 85.1 percent conversion rate after it was ranked 23rd the season before. Manny Malhotra was signed in the offseason to help eat up the ice time opened up by the Briere trade. We could also see more of Pacioretty on the penalty kill, too. The Canadiens have Plekanec to help prevent teams from cheating into the zone. He scored three shorthanded goals last season and it was the third time in his career that he’s hit that mark. Markov makes an impact again in the penalty kill, and it may become a bigger focus for the veteran this year. The penalty kill was also bolstered late in the season when Weaver came to the team. Three Questions 1. Will Carey Price be affected by his season-ending knee injury? The Canadiens were relived when they learned that Price did not need surgery to repair the injury he suffered during an in-goal collision with New York Ranger Chris Kreider. Price has proclaimed himself healthy and expects to be one of the best goalies in the league once again. There is no reason to doubt that he’ll do it. 2. Can the Canadiens get more offense out of their secondary players? The team is very top heavy on offense. They brought in P.A. Parenteau and Jiri Sekac as reinforcements, but other players will need to step up. Rene Bourque’s postseason play was encouraging but he needs to learn to be a consistent scorer, and the Canadiens would love to see Galchenyuk bounce back after he had a stellar rookie season in 2012-13. 3. Have the Canadiens done enough to separate themselves from the Lightning and Bruins? The top of the Atlantic Division was extremely competitive with three teams earning at least 100 points. The Canadiens know that every single point will be crucial once again. They have strengthened their team from last season but it will be up to the returning stars to move them up the ladder. Prediction The Canadiens will compete in the Eastern Conference once again and they always seem to elevate their game when they reach the playoffs. Hockey crazy Montreal has plenty of cause for optimism, but it will not be easy to catch up with the Bruins or keep up with the Lightning.
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