After injuries derailed the Montreal Canadiens last season, this year features much higher hopes.
First and foremost, a healthy Carey Price (once he’s rid of the flu) will go a long way towards making the postseason, but the Habs also made some moves to improve the team in front of him.
P.K. Subban was traded for the more defensively sound Shea Weber, while Andrew Shaw was also brought in for some extra physicality. Other new additions Alex Radulov and Artturi Lehkonen should help provide more offence in the top-six.
The Canadiens should be competing among the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and barring serious injuries should make the playoffs.
While fans are certainly hoping for an entertaining season as a whole, some games are just flat-out better than others. Here, we take a look at seven must-watch Canadiens games in the 2016-17 season.
1. October 29th – Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs
The Montreal Canadiens didn’t lose a game to the Maple Leafs last season. In fact, the Canadiens have won ten straight games against the Leafs, with their last loss coming on January 18, 2014.
This will be the Habs’ first look at Auston Matthews, who went first overall in the 2016 draft and had four goals in his NHL debut. The Leafs also have quite a few other young talents and are significantly better than they were last season. Can the Canadiens make it eleven wins in a row?
2. November 13th – Canadiens @ Chicago Blackhawks
Andrew Shaw will visit his old home when the Canadiens take on the Blackhawks on November 13.
The Habs haven’t won a game against Chicago since January of 2014, and they haven’t won a game in Chicago since 2002. Safe to say the Blackhawks have had their number in recent years.
For the Habs, it’s also the second game of a back-to-back, and the fourth game in six days, so they’ll be playing on little rest. This game should be a big test for the Canadiens.
3. December 12th – Canadiens vs Boston Bruins
Arguably the most heated rivalry in sports, the Habs play the Bruins four times next season, and three of those times is in the span of 25 games. December 12 is the third game, and with two recent meetings already out of the way, expect this match to be a physical one.
The Canadiens beat the Bruins in three of five meetings last year, and will hope to get the better of them this season as well.
4. December 29th – Canadiens @ Florida Panthers
The Panthers were the only team in the Atlantic Division that the Canadiens didn’t beat last season. Unfortunately, the first time they face this season isn’t exactly an optimal situation for the Habs. This game comes at the end of a back-to-back, in the middle of the longest road trip of the season.
The back-to-back could mean that this game is started in goal by Al Montoya, who played with the Panthers for the past two seasons before joining Montreal.
5. January 3rd – Canadiens @ Nashville Predators
It’s pretty obvious why this game makes the list. It’s the first game against the Predators since the blockbuster deal that saw Subban and Weber switch teams. This trade will be talked about for years to come, and the winner and loser will always be debated. This game won’t determine that answer, but it’ll most certainly be an entertaining contest.
In addition to the Subban-Weber dynamic, it’s also an interesting match-up for Radulov, going against the only other NHL team he’s played for.
6. January 9th – Canadiens vs Washington Capitals
The Canadiens host last year’s Presidents Trophy winning Capitals, with a familiar face coming to town.
Lars Eller was traded to Washington at last year’s draft after six seasons with the Habs. It’s his first game back in Montreal.
Aside from Eller’s return, this game should also help answer questions about how the Canadiens perform against the other top teams in the East.
7. April 7th – Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning
In the final home game of the season, the Canadiens take on the Lightning.
These teams are used to playing each other in April. In the 2014 playoffs, the Canadiens swept the Lightning in round one en route to the Eastern Conference Finals. The following season the Lightning got their payback, beating the Habs in six games during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
With both teams likely to be in a playoff position, this game could have an impact on the standings in the East heading into the playoffs.