1. Getting a good look
Forward Paul Byron has ranked second on the Canadiens with at least 20 goals in each of the past two seasons.
For Byron, the key is to take high-quality shots from up close. His NHL career average shot distance is 21.4 feet, which ranks third among active players who have taken at least 100 shots, behind Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (20.1) and New York Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey (21.0).
Byron’s shooting percentage is 18 percent, which is tied for second with Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine among active players with at least 20 goals, behind Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde (18.7 percent).
2. Defensive drop
Montreal allowed 258 goals last season, seventh most in the NHL and most in Canadiens history since allowing 276 in 1996-97. It was an increase of 60 over the 198 goals they allowed in 2016-17, which was the fourth fewest that season. That difference of plus-60 was the third largest increase last season behind the Ottawa Senators (plus-74) and Washington Capitals (plus-61).
Montreal’s penalty-killing percentage dropped from 81.1 percent, which ranked 14th, to 74.1 percent, which ranked 30th. That drop of 7 percent was second largest last season behind the New York Islanders (8.7 percent).
A bounce-back season from goaltender Carey Price would correct this issue; from 2013-14 to 2016-17, Price’s save percentage of .928 ranked first among the 78 NHL goalies to play at least 30 games. In 2017-18, his .900 save percentage ranked 39th among the 42 goaltenders in that group.
3. Stepping up
The Canadiens turned to Jeff Petry to lead their defensemen after Shea Weber was limited to 26 games and had season-ending surgery on his left foot. With Weber expected to be out until mid-December recovering from right knee surgery, Petry’s increased role will continue.
Petry scored an NHL career-high 42 points (12 goals, 30 assists) in 82 games last season, 26 points more than any Montreal defenseman; Weber had 16 points (six goals, 10 assists).
Statistically, Petry qualifies as a top-pair defenseman in other areas. Over the past three seasons, the Canadiens have outshot opponents 3,792-3,298 in 5-on-5 with Petry on the ice, for an SAT of plus-494, ranking 15th at the position. In that span, he ranks 23rd among defensemen with 424 hits, 31st with 448 shots, and 54th with 356 blocked shots.