Canadiens: Top 3 reasons why they’re Stanley Cup contenders

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 12: Jonathan Drouin #92 and teammate Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens talk it out against the Detroit Red Wings during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on March 12, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 12: Jonathan Drouin #92 and teammate Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens talk it out against the Detroit Red Wings during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on March 12, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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The Montreal Canadiens have improved immensely from last season and are starting to look like true contenders.

After missing the playoffs in back to back seasons, there has been a lot of pain for the Montreal Canadiens and its faithful. Although last season ended with red hot play, it ultimately still meant not playing hockey past 82 games.

So far this season, the Habs have been exciting, to say the least. But with confidence, I can say they will be in the playoffs this season. Through 15 games, their record is identical to that of last season, but it won’t end the same. Here are three things that will take them there.

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1. A Power Play That Works

There is simply no other way to put it – the Habs power play last season was a joke. The 13.25% rate of 2018-19 was historically appalling. After seeing the best powerplay in the league under coach Guy Carbonneau over 10 years ago, the man advantage has suffered since. But last season, it almost died.

Although the power play ranks near the middle now, before their last three road games, the Canadiens ranked fifth in power play efficiency. Even though they’re in the middle of the pack, their power play is light years better than last season.  If you aren’t threatening on the powerplay, it can be an Achilles’ heel.

It’s also amazing that in 15 games, six different players have scored on the powerplay. After all, variety is the spice of life. Teams that can’t spread it out tend to fizzle quickly in the postseason. Players like Sheldon Souray, Bryan McCabe, and Adrian Aucoin were all lethal at one point on the powerplay, but teams figured them out. Montreal is keeping teams guessing this season, which is great.

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2. More Offense

Entering Nov. 7, only five teams have at least seven players with double digits in points. Of those five, Montreal is the only one that wasn’t in the playoffs last season. And, in case you didn’t know, the Canadiens currently rank fourth in total goals scored.

The best part about Montreal’s scoring ways is the balance. It’s amazing if you have a Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, or a worldly elite talent that could score at any moment. But it’s almost better to not have your opponent know who is going to put the puck in the net.

Not only is the offense spread out, but it’s also coming from all angles, including from their defensemen. Two of the seven Habs players with at least 10 points are rearguards. And then when you add in new scoring prowess from a player like Joel Armia, it’s hard for the opposition to predict which pairing to put on the ice to stop the bleeding.

3. A Healthy Captain

Shea Weber missed a total of 80 games over the last two seasons. It’s crazy to hear that about a man who is usually playing in every game. So far this year, the captain has not only played every game, but he’s simply been on the bench with his team each night.

A team needs its captain because a ship without a captain is sure to sink. There have only been two times that a Stanley Cup was awarded without a captain. The Boston Bruins of 1970 and 1972 were without one but was a weird occurrence that won’t happen again.

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Your team simply needs its leader. And when the captain is missing, the team cannot play to the level it should. The Canadiens need Weber manning the blue line. Whether it’s his shot, hard hits or just the respect opponents have to yield, Montreal is a different team when their captain is on the ice.00