The Montreal Canadiens were the feel good story of the playoffs last season. Unless of course you are like me and hate those damn Habs. Regardless, they pulled off two of the most impressive upsets in the playoffs, knocking off favorites in the form of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Jaroslav Halak made a huge name for himself, and Michael Cammalleri (yea we know him around here…) was impressive during the run that inevitably ended against the Philadelphia Flyers (who prepared to subsequently be destroyed by the Blackhawks). That said, this year could be an interesting one for the Canadiens, and I will certainly be watching to see what happens.
Jaroslav Halak made a major impression on the fans last season when he almost single-handedly gave them not one, but TWO playoff series wins against heavily favored teams. He became virtually a folk hero after the playoffs and the fans were looking forward to this season. Then management dealt him. Yea it was surprising, but they have faith in Carey Price to lead them to the promised land, and they’d damn well hope they are right. If Halak plays lights out for the Blues, and Price struggles? Watch out, it could get ugly in Montreal.
Carey Price, Michael Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Andrei Markov
The Canadiens offense isn’t awful, but it’s not going to set the world on fire either. They were effective in most of the playoff games, but can struggle against bigger, stronger teams. Their big names on offense, Gomez, Cammalleri and Gionta are all under 6 feet, and after Gomez, are 5’9″ or shorter. That’s small for the NHL. Other than the Canadiens, there might not be another team that relies as heavily on small forwards to power their offense. That said, while Cammy might not have been the most magnanimous player in Los Angeles (and more than a little too tempted by money), there’s no denying that he’s talented and can put the puck in the net. If their offense picks up where it left off in the playoffs, they’ll be in fine shape up front.
Andrei Markov will likely build on his impressive season last year, which was hampered by injury. If he steps up his game, it will likely go quite well with the shutdown defense of Hal Gill. They will be decent on the back-end, if not spectacular. The questions on defense revolve around two players: Carey Price and PK Subban. Subban is getting some crazy hype, and I think it’s over-rated. He’s a solid player and may mature into a real force, but a few strong games in the playoffs last season is not enough to build a career on. Expect some highs and lows, with perhaps a bit more highs. I don’t see him in the running for the Calder, but he could solidify the back line in Montreal. Carey Price is a big question mark here. If he is able to play the way management clearly thinks he can, this is his year. If he struggles, expect the pressure in hockey mad Montreal to build and potentially crack his confidence. I don’t expect mediocrity here, I think he’s going to either thrive and put in a very good season, or struggle the entire year and have Montreal sitting at home during the playoffs wishing they had never dealt Halak.
I think Carey Price will play well. I think the offense, while small will produce. I think the Eastern Conference is weak across the board. I think the Canadiens will make the playoffs. I don’t see them finishing much higher than 5th, with a 7th slot perhaps the most likely, but anything could happen. If they are plagued by injuries again they may fail to make the playoffs as they nearly did a year ago. Either way, I don’t see the dream run from last season repeated. They will likely make the playoffs and bow out in round 1.
Topics: Andrei Markov, Brian Gionta, Carey Price, Chicago Blackhawks, Hal Gill, Jaroslav Halak, Michael Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, PK Subban, Scott Gomez, Washington Capitals