by Matt Smith, Staff Writer/Social Media Specialist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Following another eventful off season, the day we’ve all been waiting for is nearly here, the commencement of the 2017-2018 regular season.

Last season, the Montreal Canadiens finished first in the Atlantic Division with a record of 47-26-9 in spite of top players missing from the lineup and a coaching change in February.

Offseason Additions & Subtractions

Additions: Jonathan Drouin, Ales Hemsky, Karl Alzner, David Schlemko, Mark Streit, Joe Morrow, Peter Holland, Jakub Jerabek, Byron Froese, Matt Taormina, Antoine Waked.

Subtractions: Alexander Radulov, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Nathan Beaulieu, Nikita Nesterov, Dwight King, Steve Ott, Joel Hanley, Ryan Johnston, Mikhail Sergachev, Brian Flynn, Stefan Matteau, Keegan Lowe, Bobby Farnham.

Even though he’s not listed above as an addition, head coach Claude Julien will now have a full season behind the bench, implementing a possession based system instead of playing dump and chase as was the case under Michel Therrien. With a full training camp, Julien will look to improve the 16-7-1 record earned after being re-hired by the Canadiens.

With many new faces in the lineup, prospects hoping to make the NHL roster, and Claude Julien behind the bench, here are the six games every fan should have circled on their calendars.

October 5th 2017 – Montreal Canadiens @ Buffalo Sabres

The Montreal Canadiens will kick off their 2017-2018 season on the road against the Buffalo Sabres, giving fans the opportunity to see the newest additions to the roster for the first time, mainly Jonathan Drouin and free agent signing, defenseman Karl Alzner.

This will also be the first time we see former Habs defender Nathan Beaulieu suit up for the Sabres after he was traded for a 2017 third round pick (Scott Walford), and has now been signed to a two-year $4.8 million contract extension.

The Canadiens will look to start the season on a winning note, spoiling the Sabres first game under new head coach, Phil Housley and GM, Jason Botterill. With Jack Eichel healthy once again, and the addition of Marco Scandella to the Sabres blue-line, this should be an exciting game to kick off the season.

October 10th 2017 – Montreal Canadiens vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Bell Centre crowd will be energized as the Montreal Canadiens face off against the Chicago Blackhawks on home ice. Fans should be prepared for an exciting pre-game ceremony introducing the Habs coaching staff and 2017-2018 roster. We’re all aware that the Montreal Canadiens reign supreme when it comes to pre-game ceremonies, so do not be surprised to see Canadiens legends involved in some fashion, which should bring that much more energy to the Bell Centre crowd.

This game should be particularly exciting for Jonathan Drouin, who seems extremely eager to play in front of the Canadiens fans, expect him to find a new gear on home ice for the first time.

The Chicago Blackhawks remain a tough opponent for any team with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford in the lineup. Key changes to the Blackhawks lineup include the departure of Artemi Panarin who was exchanged for Brandon Saad. In other moves Niklas Hjalmarsson and goaltender Scott Darling have also departed the team. Forward Marian Hossa will also be absent as he will miss the entire season due to a skin disorder.

November 7th 2017 – Montreal Canadiens vs. Vegas Golden Knights

First of all, I am extremely excited to have tickets to this game! The Montreal Canadiens will host the Vegas Golden Knights for the first time in franchise history, after the league officially introduced them as the 31st NHL franchise.

The Canadiens will not be playing against any former teammates as Alexei Emelin was selected during the NHL Expansion Draft, but was traded to the Nashville Predators for a 2019 3rd round pick. One player however who had been linked to the Canadiens is former KHL centre Vadim Shipachyov, who signed with the Golden Knights as a free agent for two-years with a cap hit of $4.5 million. After a great season with SKA St. Petersburg, finishing with 76 points (26 goals, 50 assists), it’ll be interesting to see if those numbers can continue at an NHL level. Shipachyov should be given every opportunity to succeed, as he will more than likely start the season as the Golden Knights top centre.

Even though this game should be a guaranteed win for the Canadiens, the Golden Knights do have Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes, who with a solid performance, could steal a win for his team.

After signing 1st round picks Cody Glass (6th overall), Nick Suzuki (13th overall) and Erik Brannstrom (15th overall) to entry level contracts, it is very much a possibility that we could see one of them in the lineup against the Canadiens.

December 16th 2017 – The NHL 100 Classic – Montreal Canadiens @ Ottawa Senators

Lansdowne Park (TD Place) will be the site for the NHL 100 Classic, as the Montreal Canadiens will face the Ottawa Senators to celebrate their first NHL game back in 1917 which the Canadiens won by a score of 7-4.

The Canadiens last played an outdoor game against the Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium at the 2016 Winter Classic winning 5-1.

It’ll be exciting to see the jersey that is designed for this historic game, hopefully the Canadiens showcase something fans will be positive about.

Unfortunately, it seems as the NHL will not have an alumni game prior to the NHL 100 Classic, but things could obviously change between now and then. For the fans who are lucky to be in attendance, especially with Ottawa in close proximity (and a drop in Senators attendance), it may seem like the Canadiens have home ice advantage.

December 28th 2017 – Montreal Canadiens @ Tampa Bay Lightning

Jonathan Drouin returns to the team that drafted him 3rd overall in 2013. When it seemed like relations between the Lightning and Drouin were mended, Marc Bergevin surprised us all by acquiring Drouin for 2016 1st round pick (9th overall) Mikhail Sergachev. Now a member of the Canadiens, Jonathan Drouin signed a six-year, $33M contract ($5.5M cap hit) soon after the deal was made.

On the other side of the ice, it could also be the first time the Canadiens see Mikhail Sergachev as an opponent with a strong showing at Lightning training camp. Expect the media to heavily hype up this game if Sergachev does in fact make the Lightning roster.

March 13th 2018 – Montreal Canadiens vs. Dallas Stars

After a very disappointing 2016-2017 season, it was all but certain that changes would be made in Dallas. After this offseason however, the word changes should be replaced with overhaul as the Dallas Stars replaced Lindy Ruff with Ken Hitchcock, traded a 4th round pick for Ben Bishop, acquired Marc Methot from the Vegas Golden Knights and spent millions of dollars on free agents. With the money spent to improve this team, the Dallas Stars should be a contender in the Pacific Division, but with teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues also in your division, it won’t be a walk in the park.

This date also marks the return of Alexander Radulov, who became an instant fan favorite last season with the Canadiens, scoring 18 goals and 36 assists in 76 games. Many fans believed it was all but certain that Radulov would return to the Canadiens lineup in 17-18, but instead chose money over Montreal, signing a five-year, $31.25 million contract on July 3rd. The thought of having Radulov and Drouin on the same team was a great one, which would have very much increased five on five goal scoring and the power-play. As a fan, it’s disappointing we will not be seeing this, but we have to move on.

It will be interesting to see how fans react to Radulov as he returns to the Bell Centre for the first time, many will cheer with memories of last season while others will boo every time he touches the puck for leaving the Canadiens organization after just one season.

The full 2017-2018 regular season scheduled is included below. Is there a game you’re looking forward to more than others? Please comment below!

Is it October yet?

2017-10-05 Montreal Buffalo 7:00 PM
2017-10-07 Montreal Washington 7:00 PM
2017-10-08 Montreal N.Y. Rangers 7:00 PM
2017-10-10 Chicago Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-10-14 Toronto Montreal 7:00 PM
2017-10-17 Montreal San Jose 10:30 PM
2017-10-18 Montreal Los Angeles 10:30 PM
2017-10-20 Montreal Anaheim 10:00 PM
2017-10-24 Florida Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-10-26 Los Angeles Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-10-28 N.Y. Rangers Montreal 7:00 PM
2017-10-30 Montreal Ottawa 7:30 PM
2017-11-02 Montreal Minnesota 8:00 PM
2017-11-04 Montreal Winnipeg 7:00 PM
2017-11-05 Montreal Chicago 7:00 PM
2017-11-07 Las Vegas Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-11-09 Minnesota Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-11-11 Buffalo Montreal 7:00 PM
2017-11-14 Columbus Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-11-16 Arizona Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-11-18 Toronto Montreal 7:00 PM
2017-11-21 Montreal Dallas 8:30 PM
2017-11-22 Montreal Nashville 8:00 PM
2017-11-25 Buffalo Montreal 7:00 PM
2017-11-27 Columbus Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-11-29 Ottawa Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-11-30 Montreal Detroit 7:30 PM
2017-12-02 Detroit Montreal 7:00 PM
2017-12-05 St. Louis Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-12-07 Calgary Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-12-09 Edmonton Montreal 7:00 PM
2017-12-14 New Jersey Montreal 7:30 PM
2017-12-16 Montreal Ottawa 7:00 PM
2017-12-19 Montreal Vancouver 10:00 PM
2017-12-22 Montreal Calgary 9:00 PM
2017-12-23 Montreal Edmonton 7:00 PM
2017-12-27 Montreal Carolina 7:00 PM
2017-12-28 Montreal Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
2017-12-30 Montreal Florida 7:00 PM
2018-01-02 San Jose Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-01-04 Tampa Bay Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-01-07 Vancouver Montreal 7:00 PM
2018-01-13 Boston Montreal 7:00 PM
2018-01-15 N.Y. Islanders Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-01-17 Montreal Boston 7:30 PM
2018-01-19 Montreal Washington 7:30 PM
2018-01-20 Boston Montreal 7:00 PM
2018-01-23 Colorado Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-01-25 Carolina Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-01-30 Montreal St. Louis 8:00 PM
2018-02-01 Montreal Carolina 7:00 PM
2018-02-03 Anaheim Montreal 1:00 PM
2018-02-04 Ottawa Montreal 1:00 PM
2018-02-08 Montreal Philadelphia 7:00 PM
2018-02-10 Nashville Montreal 7:00 PM
2018-02-14 Montreal Colorado 9:30 PM
2018-02-15 Montreal Arizona 9:00 PM
2018-02-17 Montreal Las Vegas 7:00 PM
2018-02-20 Montreal Philadelphia 7:00 PM
2018-02-22 N.Y. Rangers Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-02-24 Tampa Bay Montreal 7:00 PM
2018-02-26 Philadelphia Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-02-28 N.Y. Islanders Montreal 7:00 PM
2018-03-02 Montreal N.Y. Islanders 7:00 PM
2018-03-03 Montreal Boston 5:00 PM
2018-03-06 Montreal New Jersey 7:00 PM
2018-03-08 Montreal Florida 7:30 PM
2018-03-10 Montreal Tampa Bay 1:00 PM
2018-03-12 Montreal Columbus 7:00 PM
2018-03-13 Dallas Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-03-15 Pittsburgh Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-03-17 Montreal Toronto 7:00 PM
2018-03-19 Florida Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-03-21 Montreal Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
2018-03-23 Montreal Buffalo 7:00 PM
2018-03-24 Washington Montreal 7:00 PM
2018-03-26 Detroit Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-03-31 Montreal Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
2018-04-01 New Jersey Montreal 7:00 PM
2018-04-03 Winnipeg Montreal 7:30 PM
2018-04-05 Montreal Detroit 7:30 PM
2018-04-07 Montreal Toronto 7:00 PM