Hockey Sharks

Montreal Canadiens’ Defense Will Be Foundation of Stanley Cup Surge

The Montreal Canadiens have made a strong start to their bid to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1993. The franchise have been perennial contenders in the Eastern Conference, but in their recent history they have always managed to fall short of the ultimate success.

Current head coach Michel Therrien is in his second spell at the Canadiens after previously being fired by the club in 2003 for his side’s underwhelming performances in his three-year tenure. However, since his return they have been a strong force in the Atlantic Division, bar their below-par campaign last season, although the 53-year-old appears to have solved those issues this term.

Montreal are the current pacesetters in the Eastern Conference along with the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division, but they will have to be wary of their early success, having started extremely well in the last campaign only to collapse in December and January. That will be on the mind of Therrien as his side embark over the middle stretch of the term.

However, should the Canadiens maintain their current level of form they will be in the mix for the Stanley Cup right until the bitter end. As a result of their early season displays, Therrien’s men are backed at 15/2 in the latest bet365 NHL betting odds to end their 23-year drought for the crown.

The foundation of Montreal’s strong start to the season has been their home form. Their only defeat in regulation came against the Ottawa Senators in a 4-3 scoreline, while they also succumbed to an overtime loss to the Florida Panthers.

For the majority of the campaign they’ve been impressive on both offense and defense, although their exploits in front of their own net have been slightly better than going forward. The Canadiens have only shipped 50 goals in their 23 matches this term, including shut-outs against the reigning Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings.

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080228 Therrien at Penguins bench” (CC BY 2.0) by Dan4th

Their feat is even more impressive considering that they conceded 10 goals in a heavy defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets. There’s an old saying in sports that ‘defense wins championships’, and there are encouraging signs for the franchise that their rear guard could be the base to build off for a deep run in the post-season.

Offensively the trade for Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators has appeared to pay dividends as he has notched seven goals this term, but he has been outshone in attack by the performances of center Alex Galchenyuk, who has six strikes and 11 assists to his name. The 22-year-old played in every game for the Canadiens last season and has been an integral part of their improvement this season, including notching an important overtime winner against the Red Wings.

Montreal are trending with a strong push towards the playoffs, and it appears on their form this term they have the right blend of both sides of the puck to put their trouble in the post-season to an end, although the next two months will be a good indicator of the character of Therrien’s men.

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