The Montreal Canadiens took to their 94th NHL season with a new team captain (Brian Gionta) and without the goalie that garnered them considerable playoff success the season prior. Jaroslav Halak was sent to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.
The team banked heavily on goalie Carey Price, bringing in Alex Auld in support. They also signed forward Jeff Halpern and defenceman Alexandre Picard. Sergei Kostitsyn was traded to the Blues in exchange for the negotiating rights to Dustin Boyd and Dan Ellis. Ellis was never signed by the Habs and he wound up getting signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning after he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Boyd signed a contract but was put on waivers in November, clearing them to join the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs.
Other than some minor changes, the Canadiens’ roster was about the same when the 2010-2011 season began.
They finished the regular season with a 44-30-8 record, good enough for second in the Northeast Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. They posted 216 goals for and had 209 goals against.
Tomas Plekanec was the leading scorer, finishing with 57 points in 77 games. Michael Cammalleri was second with 47 points in 67 games, including 19 goals. Captain Gionta led the team in goals with 29, adding 17 helpers for a total of 46 points.
Defenceman P. K. Subban was a bright light for the Canadiens, although his flashiness and attitude were often subjects of controversy. He finished with 38 points in 77 games, including 14 goals. Subban was a disappointing -8, the third worst on the team. Scott Gomez (-15) and Hal Gill (-9) were the only players worse than the youngster.
Price played in 72 regular season games, finishing with a .923 save percentage and a GAA of 2.35. He also posted eight shutouts, good enough for third in the league. His 38 wins tied him for first in that category with Roberto Luongo, too. All in all, it was an impressive year for Carey Price. Auld did well in the back-up position (6-2-2), landing himself a GAA of 2.64.
The Canadiens took to the post-season looking to build on their success from 2010. They qualified for the playoffs on April 5 thanks to a win against the Blackhawks. Unfortunately, the Habs had to face off against their rivals the Boston Bruins. They lost the series in seven, but they gave the eventual Stanley Cup winners a run for their money. Cammalleri led the club in playoff scoring with 10 points in seven games.
With the 2011-2012 season around the corner (but not close enough!), the Canadiens have made a few small changes. Peter Budaj will support Price in goal, while Erik Cole and Paul Mara signed with the club.
As long as the Habs can pull good performances out of Price, they’ll be a solid team. The addition of Cole gives them some more physicality up front, too, and that’ll help give the forwards space to move. Guys like Gionta and Cammalleri should play well with Cole and should make great use of the room they’ll have.