The Montreal Canadiens are in an interesting position for the 2014-2015 season. They have kept pieces of their run to the Conference Finals, but are in search of the next captain, with Brian Gionta now a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Leadership shouldn’t be a problem for the Canadiens, who finished last season in the third place spot in the new Atlantic division last year with a 46-28-8 record, good for 100 points and a playoff berth.
Much like the Tampa Bay Lightning, who struggled in the playoffs after the loss of their goalie to injury, the Montreal Canadiens were eventually undone in the conference semi’s when Carey Price fell out of the lineup. Up until that point, the Canadiens made quick work of their opponents in the playoffs.
The additions/subtractions for the Montreal Canadiens were relatively minor, with Brian Gionta probably going to make the most impact, but with plenty of players ready to step into a leadership role, should have no problem filling the shoes of the aging veteran. Montreal also parted ways with Daniel Briere, Nick Tarnasky and Thomas Vanek – former Buffalo Sabres. Josh Gorges and Louis Leblanc left the defensive corps, and Devan Dubnyk, Mike Blulnden, and Robert Mayer rounded out the departures.
The biggest names coming in for the Montreal Canadiens is Manny Malhotra and PA Parenteau.
The Buffalo Sabres faced the Montreal Canadiens four times last season, including two games in March where they were shutout in both contests.
If their bad luck against the Canadiens is to continue, they will not be in misery for long. Three of the four meetings this season between the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres will occur in November. Montreal visits First Niagara Center on November 5th and 28th, while the Sabres make their season premier at the Bell Centre on November 29th. The teams will close their season series on February 3rd with the final game of the series in Montreal.
In the lockout shortened campaign of 2013 – Buffalo won three of five meetings by one goal, while getting blown out in the other two contents.
Buffalo will be dressing familiar faces for the Canadiens when these matchups roll around on the schedule, with Buffalo signing former Canadien free agents Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges on a surprisingly active free agent campaign by Tim Murray.
Can the Montreal Canadiens maintain pace with the big boys in the Eastern Conference and push further into the playoffs this season?