The Montreal Canadiens nearly made the playoffs last season after being written off a year ago at this time. They were a thorn in the side of the Boston Bruins a season ago, and will certainly repeat that feat this year after an interesting summer. The Canadiens tried to land both Sebastian Aho and Jake Gardiner, coming up short to the Carolina Hurricanes in both cases.
Regardless, the Canadiens are poised to take a step forward as their young core gets a year older. That could mean trouble for the Bruins.
G Keith Kinkaid: He struggled a season ago, but Kinkaid should be a better fit as Carey Price’s backup. He’s proven he can handle 25-30 starts a season and has stepped into a starting role before. He’ll be a solid backup to the NHL’s best goalie.
C Nick Cousins: Cousins isn’t going to run his own line or make a major difference, but he is a strong depth forward. A two-way center with offensive ability, Cousins should be able to help improve Montreal’s bottom-six.
D Ben Chiarot: Slightly overpaid, Chiarot brings toughness and strong defensive play to the table. Ideally suited as a third pair defender, Chiarot can also help stabilize the Canadiens’ penalty kill. He’s also a veteran leader with playoff experience.
G Antti Niemi: Niemi played well in spurts for the Canadiens and was solid two seasons ago. He struggled at times in 2018-19, however, and an argument can be made that the club is better off with Kinkaid. Niemi signed in Europe in early June.
Why They’ll Threaten The Bruins
Montreal was nearly a playoff team a season ago, missing the mark during the final days of the campaign. Their biggest loss was their backup goaltender, a player they ended up improving on at the end of the day. This Canadiens team will naturally take a step forward as their young core gets older.
Had the Hurricanes not matched the offer sheet to Sebastian Aho or offered Gardiner a solid contract, the Canadiens could look even better. They still have cap space, however, and an appetite to improve. GM Marc Bergevin very well could be busy in the coming weeks.
The Canadiens pose a threat to the Bruins because they have a distinct advantage in goal. That’s not a shot at Tuukka Rask, that’s just how good Price is. On top of that, they play a system that caused a lot of problems for Boston a season ago.
Improvements from Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Max Domi, Tomas Tatar, Victor Mete, Jonathan Drouin and a full season of Ryan Poehling will only make this group stronger. The Canadiens are young, motivated and have the speed and skill to give the Bruins more than a handful.
Final Point Prediction: 98 (Wild Card)