While the NHL, the players, and the fans await the fate of the 2019-20 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s a look at the best moments from the season for the Montreal Canadiens. With their team sitting 24th in the overall standings when play was paused, the loyal Habs’ faithful probably aren’t in the mood to reminisce. Instead, they are looking forward to the Draft Lottery and the Entry Draft since Montreal is set to make 14 selections, including four in the first two rounds, barring any trades. But there were some memorable moments that they can look back on fondly.
5 – Shea Weber Selected for the NHL All-Star Game
In January, Captain Shea Weber made his seventh NHL All-Star Game appearance in St. Louis after putting up 12 goals and 31 points in 39 games. It marked the second time he represented Montreal at the midseason showcase.
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This meant that Weber made a much-anticipated return to the NHL Hardest Shot competition during All-Star Skills night and he certainly didn’t disappoint. He had the two hardest shots, the winner at 106.5 mph, and another at 105.9 mph. John Carlson of the Washington Capitals finished second with his best shot of 104.5 mph.
Weber has won the event each of the four times he’s participated. His four victories trail Al MacInnis of the St-Louis Blues (seven), who was on hand to be an honorary participant in the event and still managed to crack a 100-mph shot with a wooden stick, and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (five).
4 – Habs Beat League-Leading Capitals on the Road
The Canadiens’ best stretch of the season came at the end of October and into November. They won seven of nine games, ending with an impressive 5-2 road win on Nov. 15 over the Washington Capitals who were sitting atop the standings at the time. With the win, they ended Washington’s 13-game point streak.
Tomas Tatar led the Habs with a career-best four-point night. Phillip Danault added three points and Weber had a goal and an assist while Carey Price made 26 saves. It was Montreal’s third-straight victory and improved their record to 11-5-3. Fans were hopeful this would be the launching pad for a playoff season, but it appeared to have the opposite effect as the Canadiens went on to lose their next eight games, a skid they were never able to recover from.
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In February, the Canadiens beat the Capitals again at Capital One Arena, this time thanks to an overtime goal by Ben Chiarot, his second of the game and ninth of the season, to give the visiting team a 4-3 win.
3 – Victor Mete Nets Long-Awaited First Goal
It was 127 games. That’s how long it took for Victor Mete to score his first NHL goal, but the defenseman’s reaction to finally breaking the goose egg — even more so those of his teammates — made the moment well worth the wait. It was the most games played by a Canadiens player before scoring their first goal.
“Obviously everybody’s wanted me to score for quite a while,” Mete said. “And also to see everyone kind of get as excited as they did, that’s pretty special. It means a lot.”
The 21-year-old ripped a shot from the slot to open the scoring in a dominant 4-0 shutout victory over the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 17. Not to be outdone, rookie Nick Suzuki also scored his first goal that same night in his seventh NHL contest. He and Mete became the 12th pair of Canadiens to each score their first NHL goal in the same game.
Mete potted three more goals after netting that first one. In 51 games this season, he has 4 goals and 11 points. In addition to Mete and Suzuki, rookies Jake Evans and Cale Fleury also scored for the first time in the NHL as well as spending a good chunk of the year playing vital roles for the Laval Rocket in the AHL.
2 – Canadiens Honor Former Captains
It’s no secret that the Canadiens are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports and it’s an occasion not to be missed every time they decide to celebrate that history and their Captains’ Reunion on Dec. 3 was no different.
To celebrate the team’s 110th anniversary, 11 of the 12 retired Habs’ captains were honored during an on-ice ceremony before puck drop against the New York Islanders. Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Bob Gainey, Chris Chelios, Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller, Mike Keane, Pierre Turgeon, Vincent Damphousse, Saku Koivu, Brian Gionta, and present captain Shea Weber all took part in the festivities. Together, Montreal’s former captains have captured 46 Stanley Cups, seven Selke trophies, three Norris trophies, three Conn Smythe trophies, two Masterton trophies, one Lady Byng trophy and one King Clancy award. A legendary group indeed.
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Current players helped celebrate the milestone by wearing special warmup jerseys featuring the names of some of the greatest players who have marked the team’s history.
1 – Ilya Kovalchuk Scores Overtime Winner Versus Maple Leafs
The best moment of the Canadiens’ season has to be Ilya Kovalchuk’s overtime winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 8. The setting was perfect. Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada, Montreal versus Toronto, a classic rivalry match up between two Original Six teams at the Bell Centre.
Montreal native Marco Scandella chose the perfect time to score his first goal as a Hab. He tied the game with 2:33 left in the third period after John Tavares opened the scoring earlier in the frame to give Toronto a 1-0 lead. Little did fans know that this was just the beginning of the excitement on this night.
In overtime, Kovalchuk buried a rebound off a Nick Suzuki backhand shot to send the home crowd into a frenzy and the Russian’s celebration was worthy of the occasion. It was the completion of his career rejuvenation as a member of the Canadiens, a feel-good story that may have another chapter to it if Kovalchuk decides to return to Montreal next season.
It may not have been the year fans hoped for, but the highlights are ones to remember ahead of what promises to be a busy and eventful summer for the Canadiens.