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‘I can’t recall playing seven games where all four lines and all three D-pairings were the same,’ Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller said of the luxury of having stability on the roster.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Well, well, it appears the Montreal Canadiens have elbowed their way into the conversation over who constitutes the NHL's best team.

This was a 50-win outfit last year, so it shouldn't be a complete surprise.

But going a franchise-record 7-0 to kick off the season, posting their longest win streak since 1992-93 – you may recall some good things happened that season – and kicking off 2015-16 with one of the hottest season-opening runs the NHL has seen in a decade?

In such circumstances, a reason must be found.

Ascribe the Habs' early season dominance to coach Michel Therrien getting religion on possession numbers if you must. Or to the lights-out fourth line. Why not chalk it up to the clairvoyant on TV who predicted Carey Price's chakras will carry him to another career year? (True story, that.) Mostly, it seems to be about coaching decisions but there are multiple factors; from the players' perspective, they tend to be prosaic.

Like proper recovery time.

This week, the coaches scrubbed plans for a practice the morning after a game. It was well received.

"It's extremely hard in the NHL to play seven consistent games in a row. … I think rest is 98 per cent of that," laughed winger Dale Weise, "having rest days and optionals is huge."

The Habs coaches have also spread the load more evenly than is typical – with a couple of exceptions, the forwards all average between 11 and 15 minutes a night.

"I can't recall playing seven games where all four lines and all three D-pairings were the same," forward Lars Eller said.

Stability is a luxury winning affords to the compulsive line-juggler.

Therrien's playing style isn't beloved by the hockey aesthetes. His defenders claim the conservative approach flowed from a belief he didn't have the horses to be more of a buccaneering team.

Saddle up, this year there is conspicuously more skill to work with thanks to general manager Marc Bergevin.

Therrien now has Tomas Fleischmann on his third line instead of Rene Bourque (alongside erstwhile top-line centre David Desharnais); former 40-goal man Alex Semin on the second unit instead of an injury-plagued P.A. Parenteau; Torrey Mitchell instead of Manny Malhotra as the workhorse defensive centre and Jeff Petry and Nathan Beaulieu on defence to start the season.

To Therrien's credit, the assets are being used brilliantly. Moving Alex Galchenyuk to centre and shifting Eller to the wing was an inspired decision.

Here's something that isn't a function of management savvy: the notable progression from players such as Galchenyuk, Eller, Devante Smith-Pelly and, most spectacularly, Alexei Emelin, who has improved from expensive liability to solid top-four guy.

Another simple fact: The Habs' young core of players is getting better as it accrues more experience, including bitter ones like last spring's early playoff exit.

"That was kind of a kick in the nuts," said Beaulieu, who looks every inch the first-round draft pick he was in 2010. "We feel like we can be the best team in this league."

Crucially, Therrien's system has become second-nature after three years of repetition.

Therrien said this week "95 per cent" of his tactics haven't changed from the past couple of seasons. The 5 per cent mostly has to do with the approach at the opposing blueline (less dumping, more carrying).

The recent addition of hockey stats expert Matt Pfeffer has surely influenced Therrien's thinking, even if the Habs' embrace of data predates his arrival.

Eller's numbers led some in the front office to conclude more than a year ago he was better suited to the left side.

Significantly, he's accepted the role without complaint. It's easy to be happy when you're winning, but there may be benefits to a close-knit group.

"I don't think I've played on a team where guys are this comfortable with each other," Tom Gilbert marvelled.

Last year, the Habs opened in similar fashion (7-1). Only this time they didn't flunk their first test against a powerhouse, outclassing St. Louis 3-0 this week.

After being a below-average possession team last year, they own the league's best goal differential, lead the NHL in shots on net and have yet to allow a first period goal.

They've had a few wobbly moments here and there, but Carey Price (.966 save percentage, two shutouts) has been there to grab the tiller.

Blues forward Steve Ott suggested this week the Habs' system can be distilled to one word: Price.

Maybe so, but it's less true than it was last year.

On Friday, the Habs match wits with Buffalo, a club that's co-holder of the record best start in NHL history: 10-0 in 2006-07.

The good times won't last, but there's a term for teams that can claim a balanced, fast lineup backstopped by a dominant goalie: Stanley Cup contender.