As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention — either mathematically or by losing in the postseason — we’ll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2018-19, along with three keys to its offseason, impact prospects for 2019-20 and a way-too-early prediction for what next season will hold.
What went wrong
The Montreal Canadiens ran out of runway, and couldn’t quite close the deal. The Habs went 6-2-1 down the stretch to put themselves right on the playoff bubble, but two critical losses at the Carolina Hurricanes (2-1, in overtime) and at the Columbus Blue Jackets (6-2 in regulation) set that effort back significantly.
But what a season! Their original projection for standings points was 80.5, per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. They blew past that by March 12. They were middle of the pack on offense (15th) and defense (13th), but were always competitive — witness their seven comeback wins when entering the third period in a deficit, tied for third-most in the league season.
It was a season of surprising offensive performances from newcomers Max Domi — acquired last summer from the Arizona Coyotes, and posting career highs in goals (28) and assists (43) — and Tomas Tatar, acquired last summer from the Vegas Golden Knights and setting a career high in points (58). It was a season of continued growth for Brendan Gallagher, who had an NHL-best 4.09 goals scored per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, and 33 on the season.
From rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi to Selke Trophy contender Phillip Danault to return to form from goaltender Carey Price, it was a season above expectations for the Canadiens, but one that just fell a little short.