As the playoffs near, we begin to assess team’s strengths and weaknesses, Les Canadiens have a mix of both—and not a regular mix.
Without question, their skill can be a strength—but not until they learn how to use it.
The Habs are a very fast team with a lot of skill—maybe too much skill. Fortunately for them, two of their most-skilled players that aren’t delivering have a track record of being great playoff players.
Speed can kill, when the Habs are skating they have proved to be a tough team to contain. With speed, grit and some skill their bottom two lines are going be there in late April. Maybe Tom Nonstopoulos can put together another great playoff with some clutch goals.
On defence they have one of the premier blueliners in the game today. If Mike Komisarek can find his game very few will be able to penetrate the Canadiens defence. They will also need Josh Gorges to keep his stellar play alive.
The defense is good enough—it's just a matter of them putting it together. In the end they have the speed, talent, depth, and two goaltenders capable of winning games. Their biggest strength is the Bell Centre.
Work ethic is the big question, the Habs have the tools to make a solid playoff drive. But they are going to need to work for it. The level of hard work has been very low since the all-star game and this needs to change.
Weak shots and no traffic in front to the opposing goal has been a problem too, this must change. Tomas Plekanec, Alex Kovalev, and Andrei Kostitsyn are going to have loads of pressure and if the three don’t step up together the Habs will be on the greens by May.
The Habs defence have looked very weak lately, including Roman Hamrlik. Hammertime was arguably the Habs' second-best D-man last season, but his play this year has been brutal to say the least.
Team toughness is key also, with Mr.Laraque suffering yet another injury. This team is going to have to play for one another. They need to put some egos aside and be ready to take a hit for the guy beside them.
There is nothing more I would love to see than another playoff series win against the big, bad Bruins. Boston is a great team that wins with great depth and hard work. Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas have been key cogs this season.
The Habs aren’t too far from the Bruins as some would imagine. The goaltending would be key in this series and its unknown if Thomas can keep his level of play up in the Playoffs. Price will also need to be at the top of his game. The Habs would need some help from the ghosts in this one.
The Devils are the team I am scared of most. The Habs have had almost no success against Jersey, and I don’t expect them to find any in a seven-game series.
The Capitals are a team without much experience. A sometimes very shaky goalie and questionable defensive corps could be just what the Habs' offense needs to get it going. Marky and Komo will have to come up huge against the big line of OV, Backstrom, and Semin.
The Flyersare very similar to the Capitals. The Habs would need to play a lot tougher to expect a solid run against the Broad Street Bullies. The offense can match the opposition, but the Habs have a better defensive unit and are starting to look very sound between the pipes.
The Penguins are starting to turn it around in a big way, bringing in solid pieces and grit. Chris Kunitz looks like a superstar with Sid, and Billy G has brought leadership and experience to the dressing room. This would truly be a great series. Good goaltending and stellar defense will be needed to slow down Sidney Crosby and the League’s top gun.
The Habs have some work to do if they don’t want to embarrass their organization, fans and themselves. But I truly see them turning this around in perfect time.
The Devils are a team they need to stay away from. The Capitals and Flyers are two teams the Habs must like their chances against, a good showing from Carey Price and the Habs pull this series out. Pittsburgh would be the most exciting series. A Boston-Montreal matchup would be one for the ages and great for both cities.
The Habs need the home ice advantage for round 1 just to get the ball rolling. A fourth-place finish would be ideal, and would allow them to possible meet the Black and Gold in round two.
Let's just hope the Habs lock up a playoff spot before we start thinking Finals.
Season series versus possible playoff teams:
Boston – 1-3-1
New Jersey – 0-3-1
Washington – 1-2-1
Philadelphia – 3-1-0
Pittsburgh – 2-1-0
NY Rangers – 2-0-1
Carolina – 0-1-1
Florida – 3-1-0
Buffalo – 2-2-1
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