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The Canadiens are one key piece away from being a contender

The team is on the cusp of something special, they just need to address one critical flaw.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal played arguably their toughest four-game stretch over the course of the past two weeks. They came away with a 1-2-1 record, but were matching each of their opponents step for step throughout most of those games, before things derailed at one point or another. Their opponents had one small advantage: an elite talent that the current Montreal Canadiens lineup is missing.

Against Tampa Bay, the Canadiens got themselves into penalty trouble, and the Lightning’s loaded man advantage made sure to make them pay. Nikita Kucherov placed a laser guided shot over Carey Price’s shoulder, and he then set up Yanni Gourde’s marker to put a fork in the Canadiens’ chances in this game.

Through 40 minutes, Montreal went blow for blow with the NHL’s best team ... again. They’re just missing their own gamebreaker; someone who is a truly elite NHL finisher. This is not a slight on the current roster, which continues to be a consistently great group, but they need that one boost to bring them to the next level.

Looking within their own division the Maple Leafs have Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner, Tampa has Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. The Boston Bruins have David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. When those teams need things to happen, they have the pieces to make it happen. Montreal has their depth, and an all-world goalie, but Carey Price can’t score goals, too.

They’re in the perfect spot to add their own gamebreaker, with players like Mark Stone likely headed for free agency, and with the Canadiens being rich in prospects and picks there’s plenty that can happen to bolster an already good team.

Saturday night was a frustrating loss considering that Montreal was able to keep pace with a great team, until their opponent just had to wait until their superstars did their thing. Price was as good as he could have been, but great players make great plays and that was the biggest difference.

The Canadiens are a very good team this year, that shouldn’t be taken away from them. They just need that one piece to be a truly great team, and they have the chance to make that happen in the near future.