1. Pre-season in April?
Steve Ott wearing an ‘A’. Brett Lernout. Mikhail Sergachev. Charlie Lindgren. A lot of regulars not even making the trip for the Montreal Canadiens. It sure didn’t feel like a regular season game, especially not for a team about to play their first playoff game. But it was a luxury the Canadiens could afford because they clinched the division.
Five of Marc Bergevin’s trade acquisitions throughout the season were in the lineup tonight, and it showed the depth this team has going into the playoffs. The fact that the Canadiens could put together a lineup of NHL veterans (not a great NHL lineup, but an NHL lineup) shows you a little insight into Bergevin’s mindset and approach to this year’s deadline.
2. Alex The Great
After a game where he got called out by his coach against Tampa Bay, Alex Galchenyuk had several good moments. He scored the game winner in overtime - a franchise record fifth OT winner of the season, and had several scoring chances throughout the game.
3. Alex The Not So Great
Galchenyuk played with Steve Ott and Andreas Martinsen, and that line was dominated at even strength. Now, I’m going to be careful at how much I will blame Galchenyuk for that - Ott and Martinsen have not been good this season - but if he wanted to put himself back in his coach’s good books, the numbers didn’t look great.
4. Last game at the Joe
It was the final Canadiens-Red Wings game at the Joe Louis arena, and, well, you can see where the arena was starting to show its age.
The opening Detroit goal happened after Martinsen’s clearing attempt hit a stanchion and instead of going up the ice, it came backwards into the Habs zone. In the third period, Charlie Lindgren had to recover after a shot that went wide came out so quickly that he had to smash into his post in an attempt to recover.
5. Charlie Lindgren continues to impress
The road for Lindgren to be the starting goaltender in Montreal is quite blocked as long as Carey Price is around, but you can see why the team felt compelled to sign him last season. He has had a really good first full professional season, and in his three NHL starts, has yet to lose.
Al Montoya has been good this season for Montreal, but you know it is only a matter of time until Lindgren becomes the backup goaltender for good.
6. Artturi Lehkonen is getting into playoff mode
It was just about a year ago where Artturi Lehkonen really burst on the scene. He broke Daniel Alfredsson’s Frölunda playoff scoring record taking his game to another level, and as we are approaching the NHL playoffs, Lehkonen is getting into another gear.
He has goals in his last four games, and is the team’s leading scorer over the last nine games. Usually players in their first NHL season start hitting a wall at the end of the year but Lehkonen is actually improving.
7. Paul Byron is one of the keys to a Habs playoff run
Whenever the playoffs come around, your most important players are not necessarily your best players. We saw it with Lars Eller and Rene Bourque in 2014 and this year, Paul Byron feels like he could be that player.
He has had a great season, scoring over 22 goals and while he didn’t score in the season finale, he did have some scoring chances. All season, the Canadiens were looking for secondary scoring to pick up and with Lehkonen and Byron on separate lines, they are looking like they are finally getting it.
8. Nathan Beaulieu is another secret weapon
In 2015, when the Canadiens finally replaced Douglas Murray with Nathan Beaulieu in their series against the Boston Bruins, Beaulieu launched a long pass to Max Pacioretty and led him onto a breakaway.
That is the type of play that Beaulieu can make, and from a bottom pairing, it’s extremely dangerous. When the playoffs start, you’d expect him to find Jordie Benn again, and that should help him stabilize again. Tonight, he scored a power play goal, and that second wave is a good place for him to chip in as well.
9. What a difference a year makes
Yes, the health of their star goaltender is the biggest difference from a year ago, but the Canadiens went from a season that saw them finish sixth in the division with 82 points to a third division championship in five years and 103 points.
It was a crazy year for the Habs. From a controversial off-season to a mid-season coaching change, but at the end of 82 games, the Canadiens are right where even the most optimistic predictions wouldn’t have expected at the start of the year.
10. Flipping the switch
It’s been a while since the Canadiens had their full lineup in a game due to minor injuries and resting players. Now, they have to hit the ground running in their series against the New York Rangers.
They have home-ice, which means that they can’t afford to fall behind. A slip up in Game One means they lose home-ice advantage until they win at least one game in Madison Square Garden.
Montreal has a veteran group and don’t have any excuses. Their margin for error is not very big. Luck drives a lot of things in the playoffs, and in hockey in general, but with Claude Julien at the helm, they will give themselves the best chance to succeed.