Final Report Card for Montreal Canadiens' 2013-14 Season
It is safe to write that the Montreal Canadiens exceeded the expectations of many by making it to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014.
Despite leaving Montreal fans wanting more, it was a great run for the club from "la belle province."
They bowed out to the New York Rangers in six games in the Eastern Conference Final, as reported by NHL.com, but the players can hold their heads high despite their season ending before they wanted it to.
Despite losing the incomparable Carey Price, Dustin Tokarski battled throughout the Eastern Conference Final series. Tokarski was calm amidst tremendous pressure.
The team finished third in what turned out to be a strong division with 100 points in the regular season. The club won't sneak up on anyone in 2014-15.
Let's take a look at the report card for the Canadiens in several major categories.
The Montreal forward group was not a star-studded one. The club added Thomas Vanek, and he became the team's scoring leader with 68 points in the regular season.
The Canadiens would have liked to have seen more from Vanek in the playoffs, and it remains to be seen if he'll return to Montreal in 2014-15.
Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, with 60 points for the former and 52 points for the latter, were the next best scoring forwards in the regular season.
Captain Brian Gionta had a solid, if unspectacular regular season with 40 points. He also earned a plus-one rating.
Lars Eller and Rene Bourque were pretty average during the regular season, but in the playoffs, both players stepped up their games. Eller had 13 points and Bourque had 11 in three playoff rounds.
The Canadiens' forward depth was decisive against the Boston Bruins. Dale Weise, Brandon Prust and Daniel Briere had a lot of ice time as fourth-liners, and their speed often gave the slower Bruins fits.
The Canadiens were not one of the larger forward groups in the NHL, but they were increasingly effective as the season wore on. There is a lot to build around up front in Montreal.
Final Grade: B-
The Montreal defencemen were a team strength. Led by the talented and charismatic P.K. Subban, the defence corps was a difficult group to play against on many nights.
There were a number of puck movers who didn't often get hemmed in their own end with their superior mobility.
With a goalie like Carey Price backstopping them, there's no question that they felt more comfortable than other defensive units might have with a lesser netminder.
P.K. Subban finished third in regular-season scoring for the Habs in tallying 53 points, while Andrei Markov was tied for fifth with 43 points.
Alexei Emelin was better as the season wore on, while Josh Gorges developed into a relatively dependable defender with the ability to create offence from time to time.
With youngsters Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu poised to take the next step to full-time NHL duty, the team's future looks very good on the blue line.
Final Grade: B
The Montreal Canadiens had splendid goaltending in both the regular season and in the playoffs.
Led by Olympic gold medal winner Carey Price, the Habs had no real concerns in net until Price went down with injury in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers.
In a surprise move to many, the club turned to young Dustin Tokarski instead of steady backup Peter Budaj.
Tokarski played very well on the whole. This bodes well for the future in Montreal, although Carey Price won't be going anywhere any time soon.
Carey Price was the club's MVP in 2013-14. He has a great glove hand, stellar overall positioning and he exudes confidence. He's the kind of goalie who allows his teammates to be better because they don't ever have to worry about whether or not they're going to get Price's best on a nightly basis.
The team save percentage, obviously more than a function of goalie play, was .921 in the regular season. Yet Carey Price was certainly responsible for much of this.
Peter Budaj was solid doing spot duty as his .909 save percentage was adequate for a backup.
Goaltending was an obvious strength for the Habs in 2013-14.
Final Grade: A-
Michel Therrien has matured as a leader, and he seems to have become a true player's coach.
The Montreal native is closing in on 300 career regular-season wins in two stints in Montreal and one run in Pittsburgh.
Therrien seems more relaxed behind the bench than in previous years. His line matching and ability to work with young players has also become better over time. There's a calmness that might not have been there when he was younger.
His main assistants, including Gerard Gallant, Clement Jodoin and Jean-Jacques Daigneault are an active group. Gallant and Daigneault can often be spotted in the ears of the players with an intensity and enthusiasm that seems to hold players' attentions well.
The team's play away from the puck continues to be a work in progress, but the team improved as the NHL's second season continued.
The Canadiens do need to work on the team shot differential that was not great over the course of the 2013-14 season.
Final Grade: B
The Montreal Canadiens are building a winner, not just in the here and now, but more importantly, for long-term success.
While it was likely an error to not sign P.K. Subban to a long-term contract when they had the chance, the Canadiens are going to give one of their cornerstone players the key to the vault in the form of a lucrative contract this summer.
GM Marc Bergevin was one of three nominees for the NHL's top GM. Dean Lombardi and Bob Murray were also nominated for assembling strong teams in 2013-14.
The organizational depth is good in Montreal, and in adding Thomas Vanek, Daniel Briere, Dale Weise and Mike Weaver in the past calendar year, Bergevin has proven he can add talent and grit via trade or the free-agent market.
Bergevin has much to be excited about with the number of good young players in Montreal complemented by some solid veterans.
It's going to be difficult to generate the same excitement in 2014-15 as was created this spring. Expect Bergevin to work hard to do so, though. Montreal fans will be expecting a lot.
Final Grade: B+
All stats can be found on nhl.com unless noted otherwise.