Although the prospect of the Montreal Canadiens making the playoffs this year is still very uncertain, the bigger question is how they fare against other teams in the East.
To win the Cup, a team needs to possess certain traits. All the top teams in the East have these characteristics; how does Montreal compare?
Determination, size, and heart can all be considered in this category.
Above all, winning in the playoffs requires determination; you want guys who play with heart on your team. Equally important is having players that are willing to take punishment, but also give it when needed.
The Canadiens lack the determination and grit on majority of nights, as seen during their recent struggles. No one is willing to step up their game when the stakes are high. The Canadiens also lack a player who is willing to carry the team on his back and change the momentum of the game. That certainly needs to change for the playoffs.
Cup-winning teams need hot goalies that can make big saves when needed. Sometimes the goalie needs to steal a game or two for the team.
Montreal has had spectacular, mediocre, and simply dismal goaltending over the course of this season. Which Carey Price or Jaro Halak shows up in the playoffs is a mystery—just like Montreal’s chances of making the playoffs.
The goaltending needs to be much better if the Habs have any chance of winning in the postseason.
There’s no question that talent and skill are a prerequisite to succeed in the playoffs. Whether you have proven goal scorers or shutdown defencemen, you need to be skilled.
Although there is not much to show for it, there is no doubt that Montreal has talented forwards and defencemen—but consistency is the key to success. The Habs have yet to be consistent this season and play for a full sixty minutes.
The Habs also need to play better defensively—and not get outshot every game.
Of the teams the Canadiens could play in the first round, New Jersey is probably the last team they would like to play. Martin Brodeur has been phenomenal since he has returned from injury, and he always saves his best for Montreal.
The Canadiens also don’t want the task of trying to shut down Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin, making Washington a tough first-round opponent as well.
Philadelphia has too much depth and offensive talent. If Martin Biron plays like he did in last year’s postseason, the Flyers will be the team to beat in the East.
That leaves Boston. Although Boston has owned Montreal all season, and is on its way to finish first in the East, Montreal has the psychological edge in this matchup. The Canadiens have had the luxury of beating the Bruins in the playoffs in the last decade.
All the games between the two teams this season have been fairly close except for one, which could lead to a tight series between the two.
The best-case scenario for Montreal would be finishing where they stand today. The Boston and Montreal rivalry would be a great matchup, just like last year’s postseason. Most fans can agree how exciting it would be to watch the two teams go at it again.
The most important thing right now is for the team to push hard, fight till the end, and make it into the postseason. After that, the playoffs are a whole new season.
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