NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the Montreal Canadiens.
1. How will they manage the goalie rotation between Carey Price and Jake Allen?
Canadiens coach Claude Julien said a 50:32 ratio is realistic if there is an 82-game season, with variables including a compressed schedule, injuries or place in the standings altering the plan.
Allen, acquired by Montreal in a trade with the St. Louis Blues on Sept. 2 and signed to a two-year contract extension Oct. 14, gives Price a chance for more rest than he’s had in several seasons. Price, entering the fourth season of an eight-year contract signed July 2, 2017, played 66 games (64 starts) in his age 31 season of 2018-19. He started 58 of 71 games last season, most in the NHL.
“You want to make sure he’s as fresh as possible,” Julien said. “At the same time, you don’t want to overutilize him. Not only does Carey Price have to do that for us this coming season, we’ve got him for quite a few more years after this coming season. You want to manage him so that you can get the most out of him for as long as you can.”
2. Can Jonathan Drouin reach peak performance in the NHL?
Drouin scored 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in his first 19 games before tearing a tendon in his wrist against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 15. He had surgery, was out three months and was scoreless in the eight games upon his return but sprained his ankle on Feb. 25 and missed the rest of the regular season.
The Canadiens were 11-5-3 and averaged 3.53 goals per game before Drouin’s first injury, 15-18-4 and 2.81 goals per game without him between Nov. 16 and Feb. 7. He scored seven points (one goal, six assists) in 10 postseason games.
“I think everybody is excited about seeing him explode at some point,” Julien said. “He was showcasing what he was capable of bringing until he had that major injury in Washington that just set him back. There’s potential there. We know it’s there. It’s just a matter of him giving us a whole season of that kind of hockey that we know he can bring to the table. If he does that, he’ll be a great asset to our hockey club.”
3. How quickly can they jell after the offseason changes?
Allen, forwards Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson, and defenseman Joel Edmundson will need time acclimating to new surroundings, a process Julien said should not hinder the chances of a strong start.
“I don’t think that adjustment has to be drastic,” Julien said. “I don’t think it’s really struggling at the beginning to get better at the end. I think we can be good right from the get-go. As the season goes on and you build chemistry … I think it just allows you to get better.”