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The Canadiens’ forward depth will keep them in a lot of games

Montreal’s a four-line team, and that’s a strength.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday in their season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Montreal Canadiens’ top line of Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar, and Brendan Gallagher did not have a great game.

Tatar scored on the power play, but at even strength the three forwards who were so dominant at even strength a year ago were on the ice for under 32% of shot attempts in 10:32 of ice time together.

And that’s alright.

The Canadiens forced overtime and then a shootout against a Carolina team that was also very good on Thursday. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jordan Weal, technically in the bottom six, scored big goals. Max Domi, Artturi Lehkonen, and Nick Suzuki had flashes especially in overtime.

We talk a lot about the Canadiens being a four line team, and the reality of that is that they won’t have four lines playing great every game. But the idea is that Claude Julien can spread out ice time, and on most nights some lines will pick up the slack for others.

That’s going to be their calling card. They don’t have Connor McDavid, or Sidney Crosby. They don’t have an elite game breaker who can take a line and team and put them on their back to victory.

For the Canadiens, the sum is greater than its parts. The 12 forwards, other than perhaps Gallagher, won’t make anyone stand up and take notice. Together? They add a lot more value to the team.

If the injury bug hits, they are still well equipped. The depth goes all the way to Laval. Nick Cousins, who has 259 career NHL games, was a healthy scratch. Ryan Poehling, Charles Hudon, Jake Evans, and several others can establish themselves in the AHL.

In some ways, Thursday was a blue print. The top line will be better most nights. The other lines as well. A fourth line with Paul Byron and Jordan Weal will always be dangerous, and quite honestly it’s a luxury that will help the Canadiens in their push to the playoffs.