Montreal Canadiens: Set Up For Bad Start, But Habs Are First in NHL Standings

VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 20: Josh Anderson Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 20: Josh Anderson Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens transactions were fast and furious in the offseason. When most teams were sitting back and trying to find ways to cut payrolls and keep expenses to a minimum, the Habs were spending freely.

They brought in Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Corey Perry, Michael Frolik, Joel Edmundson and Jake Allen to a team that surprised many with a four game series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2020 postseason.

The new additions were nice and made the Habs a much deeper team, but changing over a roster so quickly can lead to some bumps in the road.

We haven’t seen this much roster turnover in one offseason since the summer of 2009. The Habs let Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider and Mike Komisarek all leave as free agents. They brought in Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, and Jaroslav Spacek to replace them. That team would ultimately sneak into the postseason and go on a Cinderella run thanks to Halak playing like Patrick Roy, but they started the year 2-5-0 and scratching their way to a 15-18-3 record by the middle of December.

They were better in the second half, but it took a lot of time for them to gel together and start playing well.

This version of the Canadiens has taken no time whatsoever to click. Not only was there a lot of new faces in training camp, but the camp was only ten days long and there were zero preseason games to work out any kinks.

If the Habs started the year 2-4-0 it would have been easy to say the pieces are there but they need some time to find chemistry. However, after six games they are yet to lose in regulation and are 4-0-2, sitting first in the National Hockey League standings.

Also, of those six games, none of them have been at the Bell Centre. The Habs started with a game in Toronto against the Maple Leafs, before heading out west to play the Edmonton Oilers twice and then face the Vancouver Canucks three times in a row.

Some of the best teams in the league can have trouble picking up points on the road with consistency. Last season, the Habs lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs. The Flyers had a bye through the play-in round because of their 41-21-7 record last season. At home, they were nearly unstoppable, going 25-6-4 in 35 games but their road record of 16-15-3 was not as impressive. The Penguins, who the Habs beat in the play-in round had nearly identical splits to the Flyers.

It is just easier to win on home ice than it is on the road.

The Habs so far have played six games, and grabbed ten of the 12 possible points up for grabs in those contests. They are yet to lose a game in regulation time, falling only to the Maple Leafs in 3-on-3 overtime and the Canucks in a shootout.

The Canadiens have also been one of the most penalized teams in the league this season. They have been shorthanded 28 times in six road games, with many of those calls being of the questionable variety. It appears the NHL referees are the ones who needed the preseason games all these years and not the players.

However, the Habs have found a way to battle through these potential excuses and just win hockey games.

It was especially evident in the third period of last night’s game that this team isn’t interested in using excuses to explain losses. They were in control of the game with a 2-0 lead early in the third period but two quick Canucks goal tied it in a hurry. It would have been easy, in the final period of a six game road trip, to let the game slip away. But, just as quick as the Canucks scored two, the Habs answered with another pair of their own and took that two goal lead back before clinching the win with an empty net goal.

It would have been easy to blame the roster turnover, the tough travel schedule, or the referees for a tough start to this season.

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However, at 4-0-2, we have to start wondering how good this team can be when they get to play at the Bell Centre for a while and all of their lines have had adequate time to develop chemistry. It’s a scary thought for the rest of the Canadian Division.