Montreal Canadiens eager to get back to playoffs for deeper run this time around

Montreal Canadiens eager to get back to playoffs for deeper run this time around

The Montreal Canadiens enter the season with plenty of confidence.

The question isn’t whether they can make the playoffs — it’s how far they can go with a deep roster and a standout goaltender in Carey Price.

General manager Marc Bergevin doesn’t view the playoff loss to Tampa Bay as a repudiation of a strong regular season.

“We beat the hottest team going in, which was Ottawa,” he said. “Then we lost to the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final, and I thought most of the games we pretty much outplayed them … Still in the end, they beat us. We have to build from that.”

Some things to watch for from Montreal this season:

Saviour SEMIN?: Alex Semin isn’t coming to Montreal to be a foundational player. The Canadiens already have those pieces in place. Rather, the Carolina Hurricanes castaway is being tasked as offensive support alongside Max Pacioretty. “Semin brings us some skill and some firepower where we were kind of lacking a bit last year,” Bergevin said. “He has the skill to play on the power play. He’s one of the (weapons) we brought in to make our power play better.”

CENTERSTAGE: Centers David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec are still on the roster, but at least one will not serve as a top−six centre after the off−season promotion of Alex Galchenyuk. The third overall pick in the 2012 draft spent his first two NHL seasons as a left wing. “He got stronger over the last three years,” Bergevin said. “So far in camp (he’s) been very good, very responsible defensively and he’s creating offence.”

THE PRICE IS RIGHT: What can Carey Price, the reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award winner, do for an encore? Not much, just maintain his standard of play. “Ask anybody around the league,” Bergevin said. “This is not a flash in the pan. Carey Price is among the best, if not the best. He’s done it at the international level with a gold medal. It’s like saying ’Do you expect Sidney Crosby to be good?’”

DEFENSIVE DEPTH: P.K. Subban is the star of the Canadiens defence corps. But Jeff Petry and Andrei Markov are solid second pair defencemen, while Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi provide young, cost−controlled depth.

STRENGTHENING SUBBAN: Already a Norris Trophy winner and a Norris finalist, Subban is one of the pre−eminent defencemen in the league. And Bergevin thinks he can still improve. “I believe there are greater heights,” Bergevin said. “I believe P.K. is an outstanding defenceman. I think his game has gotten better every year since we’ve been in Montreal. I think there’s another layer that he could achieve. That’s our goal, that’s his goal. P.K. is a very fierce competitor, he’s a very proud player, and I think the best of P.K. is to come.”

Denis P. Gorman, The Associated Press

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