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CWHL 2017-18 Season Recap: Les Canadiennes de Montreal

Les Canadiennes were favorites to win the Clarkson Cup right up until they were swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Michelle Jay

Season Synopsis

Record: 22-5-0-1

Playoffs: Lost best-of-three series to the Markham Thunder, 2-0.

Montréal went 12-2-0-0 in the first half of the year, but stumbled a bit in the final two months of the season. With that being said, they were still favorites to win the Clarkson Cup on March 11. Kunlun Red Star and the Toronto Furies were the only CWHL teams to best head coach Dany Brunet’s team before the postseason. In other words Montréal swept their season series with Calgary, Vanke, Toronto, and the Blades.

Les Canadiennes enjoyed consistent and exceptional goaltending from Emerance Maschmeyer all year long. And, as usual, Montréal icon Cathy Chartrand led the team’s blue line, ultimately earning Defender of the Year honors. But as great as Montréal’s team defense was, it was overshadowed by its deep, dynamic offense that flourished even without Marie-Philip Poulin.

Les Canadiennes de Montreal goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer.
Michelle Jay

Les Canadiennes had more skaters finish the year with 20 points than any other CWHL team. Montreal also had the best power play in the CWHL as well as three of the CWHL’s top five goal scorers in 2017-18.

What Went Wrong

There wasn’t a lot that went wrong for Montréal in the regular season. However, it is noteworthy that eight of their 28 games this year required extra time and Les Canadiennes went 7-0-0-1. So, one could argue that they were maybe half a dozen goals away from a significantly different record in the regular season.

Montréal averaged 4.04 goals for per game and averaged 2.07 goals against per game in the regular season. Brunet’s team out-scored The Thunder 14-9 in a five-game regular season series, but couldn’t solve the puzzle that was Erica Howe and Markham’s defense when it mattered most — Les Canadiennes scored just two goals in two playoffs against Markham.

It appears that Montréal simply ran into the wrong team at the wrong time in the Clarkson Cup Playoffs. Les Canadiennes weren’t the first team to dominate in the regular season only to fall short in the playoffs, and they certainly won’t be the last. The hockey gods can be cruel.

Special Teams: Montréal had the best power play (22.4 percent) and were tied with Kunlun with the second-best penalty kill in the CWHL (87.6 percent).

Game of the Year

On Jan. 28, 2018 Montréal defeated the Vanke Rays by a score of 14-0. Yes, those numbers are correct. Les Canadiennes scored 14 goals against the Rays, including eight goals in the third period alone. And this was after they defeated Vanke by a score of 7-3 the day before. That’s 21 goals in two games against the same team. Woof.

Montréal was merciless and relentless in their second meeting against the inexperienced Rays. Sarah Lefort and Erin Ambrose both put up ridiculous numbers in the contest: Lefort had five goals and two secondary assists and Ambrose had five assists of her own — four of which were primary. Vanke simply couldn’t contain them and the rest of Les Canadiennes.

Team MVP - Ann-Sophie Bettez

The 30-year-old Ann-Sophie Bettez had another outstanding season in 2017-18. Bettez was the spearhead of Les Canadiennes’ offense all season long and proved (once again) that she is perfectly capable of putting up eye-catching numbers without Poulin as her center. This year Bettez set a new career-high in goals (20) and put up 40 points for the third time in her CWHL career.

Bettez’s well-rounded game and consistent play has set her apart from her peers for years, and the 2017-18 season was no different. She had points in 21 of Montreal’s 28 games while playing a ton of minutes on the penalty kill and pulling strings on the CWHL’s best power play. Bettez did it all for Les Canadiennes this year.

Standout Rookie - Natalie Barrette

Montréal was truly a team of established veterans in 2017-18. The Les Canadiennes had just three rookie skaters appear in 25 or more games and rookie goaltender Marie-Soleil Deschênes appeared in just one game. But there were still one or two rookies who managed to impress.

Natalie Barrette, Les Canadiennes’ second round pick in the 2017 CWHL Draft, quietly brought depth and solid two-way play to Montréal’s blue line. Barrette and her fellow rookie defender Laurence Beaulieu didn’t see much ice time, but they both made an impact in 2017-18.

Les Canadiennes de Montreal defender Natalie Barrette
Michelle Jay

Barrette played in 25 regular season games and skated in both of Montréal’s playoff games. She finished the season with five assists — three of which were primary. Barrette also managed to stay out of the box all year long and finished the regular season with a +4 plus/minus rating.

On paper, Montréal had everything it needed to win a second-straight Clarkson Cup, but the Markham Thunder had other ideas. In many ways Les Canadiennes’ downfall in the playoffs is a case study in just how important momentum is in playoff hockey. The good news for the Montréal faithful is that the team’s future remains very bright. There’s even a chance that we’ll see Hilary Knight, Poulin, Bettez, and Melodie Daoust sharing the ice next season. Seriously, can you even imagine?