Michel Therrien’s first season behind the Montreal Canadiens’ bench version 2.0 generated the franchise’s first playoff berth after missing the dance the prior season.
After a disappointing descent to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Therrien’s attention to detail and defensive dedication helped lead the Canadiens to a surprising second place finish in the conference. Sadly, injuries and inconsistent goal tending resulted in a five game loss to the Ottawa Senators in the first round.
Now that the 2013-14 schedule has been released, it’s time to put the bitter ending to last season in the rear view mirror and break out the calendar to prepare for the five games that should generate the most excitement.
October 13, 2013 – Opening Night! The Canadiens being their quest for Stanley Cup 25 as they open the 2013 season against their biggest rival in Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both teams surprised the league by qualifying for the postseason in 2013. The Leafs will be looking to get the bitter taste of their game seven collapse as quickly as possible while Montreal will look to improve on last year’s regular season success. The Leafs think they solved their goalie issue with their big time trade of Jonathan Bernier, acquired from the Los Angeles Kings. Both teams will look to knock the other off to open the season and get a skating start on the newly realigned Atlantic Division.
November 7, 2013 – The Canadiens meet the Ottawa Senators for the first time since Ottawa ended their season. Ottawa might have lost their captain and longest tenured player in Daniel Alfredsson, the future Hall of Famer, but they did get younger and faster with their blockbuster acquisition of former Anaheim Duck Bobby Ryan. The Canadiens will look to solve Senators net minder Craig Anderson, who was a big a reason as anyone for Ottawa’s advancement.
December 5, 2013 – The Boston Bruins make their first trip to the Bell Center. The rivalry kicks off a bit later this season than usual, Montreal/Boston, enough said.
December 12, 2013 – The Canadiens travel to the “City of Brotherly Love” to play the Philadelphia Flyers. Newly signed forward Danny Briere makes his first trip to Wells Fargo Center since the city he called home the previous six years bought out his contract to get salary cap compliant. It promises to be an emotional night for Briere who scored 124 goals during his tenure, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010.
January 22, 2014 – Michel Therrien’s first trip to Pittsburgh this season. With the rivalry being at an all time high since Montreal ended the Penguins Stanley Cup defense in 2010 and P.K. Subban’s injury of former Pens center Jordan Staal, these games are always exciting. Therrien also deserves enormous credit for helping turn around a struggling Pittsburgh franchise, so his appearance in the Steel City should always be welcomed.
The best news is the season is once again 82 games. After the lockout last season cost the league, as well as the fans, 34 games, every game will be special, but these five games will bring their own story lines.