The Montreal Canadiens were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers, losing 3-2 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Friday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the East hub city.
The Canadiens were the No. 8 seed after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Montreal was the No. 12 seed in the Qualifiers and had a .500 points percentage (31-31-9) in the regular season.
Here is a look at what happened during the 2020 postseason for the Canadiens and why things could be even better next season:
Potential unrestricted free agents: Dale Weise, F; Christian Folin, D; Keith Kinkaid, G.
Potential restricted free agents: Max Domi, F; Charles Hudon, F; Jake Evans, F; Victor Mete, D; Xavier Ouellet, D.
Potential 2020 NHL Draft picks: 14
What went wrong
More Hart: Though Carey Price had a 1.38 goals-against average and .926 save percentage (138 saves on 149 shots) in the series, Flyers goalie Carter Hart was better. The 22-year-old had a 0.75 GAA, .973 save percentage (110 saves on 113 shots) in four wins, including consecutive shutouts in Games 3 and 4. He saved Montreal’s final 19 shots, including 13 in the third period, in Game 6.
Bad luck: The Canadiens outscored the Flyers 13-11 and outshot them 145-132 but were victimized by unfortunate breaks. Six of the Flyers’ 11 goals went in off a Canadiens player, four of their six in the final two games. “Those are the breaks that you get in a winning, championship season,” Price said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. Those are the things you can’t control.”
All guts, no glory: The Canadiens went further than anyone imagined at the start of the postseason. They never quit and Brendan Gallagher was an example of that. The fiery forward helped will them to victory in Game 5 before he was ruled out the rest of the series with a broken jaw sustained on a cross-check from Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen in the same game. After the series, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin revealed that Gallagher also had “a little tear in his hip” throughout the postseason. “He’s got the heart of a lion and he wouldn’t get off the ice,” Bergevin said. In the end, Gallagher had one goal in nine postseason games and Montreal was held to three goals in four losses against the Flyers.
Reasons for optimism
Centers of attention: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, 20, scored four goals in 10 postseason games after scoring six in 36 regular-season games and finishing the season with Laval in the American Hockey League. Nick Suzuki, 21, scored three goals against the Flyers, two in Game 6, and tied Jonathan Drouin for the Canadiens lead with seven points (four goals, three assists) in the postseason. After years of searching for a top-flight center, the Canadiens have two who blossomed when it mattered the most. “I think they surprised a lot of people,” defenseman Shea Weber said.
More on the way: Montreal has 14 potential picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, including three in each of the second and fourth rounds, that will add to an already deep pool of prospects. Forward Cole Caufield, 19, scored 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) in his first season at the University of Wisconsin. Goalie Cayden Primeau, 21, could be Price’s heir apparent after going 17-11-3 with a 2.45 GAA and .908 save percentage in the AHL. Defenseman Alexander Romanov, 20, finalized a three-year, entry-level contract July 13. He had seven assists and was plus-21 in 43 games for CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League this season.
Stability: Seventeen Canadiens are signed at least through next season with Gallagher, Price, Weber and defenseman Jeff Petry there to mentor the young players. Price, 33, is signed through the end of the 2025-26 season and showed he has plenty of game left during the postseason.