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2014-2015 NHL preview: Montreal Canadiens

P.K. Subban will be stylin' and profilin' on Montreal's blueline.
P.K. Subban will be stylin' and profilin' on Montreal's blueline.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Montreal had a nice run last year, which means maybe hockey will finally take in that city. They're a regular Phoenix over there! Anywho, the Canadiens ended up finishing third in their division with a solid plus-11 goal differential. Then, they got a bit of a break in the first round against Tampa Bay, who lost Ben Bishop. However, they then beat Boston, so that all evens out. They couldn't get past the New York Rangers, but a run to the Eastern Conference Finals presumably more than sufficed, even in a city that once grew accustomed to winning titles.

As is usually the case when the Canadiens have success, Carey Price was excellent last year. He had a .927 save percentage during the regular season, and played well in the playoffs too, although an injury did lead to him ceding the net to Dustin Tokarski, but Tokarski was quite good too, so you can't really blame him for their ouster to the Rangers. Price is back now, of course, and while he may be slightly worse than last year, he's proven himself to be one of the best netminders in the league, and he's still in his prime.

Part of their success is that they've developed some other talent too. Max Pacioretty had a big year, and of course P.K. Subban has become one of the best, and most exciting, defensemen in the league. Brandon Gallagher and Lars Eller provide depth, and Alex Galchenyuk has not hit his ceiling yet. Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec and those guys are getting up there, but others will step up and replace their value, presumably. Daniel Briere is gone, as is Brian Gionta, but they brought in P.A. Parenteau, who is better than either of those guys at this point in their careers.

While Boston and Tampa are, to me, clearly better than Montreal, the Canadiens are probably the third best team in their division. The only real competition is Detroit, but even if the Red Wings pass them, a wild card spot should easily be theirs. They will have to pull a couple upsets to make another deep run, but they've proven themselves capable of doing that.