As the regular 2008-2009 season has come to an end for the Habs, it is time to assess who stood out, laid down, and who rose to an unexpected performance.
First, let’s take a look at the team’s performance throughout the season.
The Canadiens started the 2008-2009 campaign with Guy Carbonneau behind the bench. Last season, Carbonneau led his team to first place in the Eastern Conference. The team had ended the regular season atop the entire league on the power play and goals scored, and finished with an impressive 104 points. Not bad considering that many experts had excluded the Habs from a playoff spot!
When the current season started, experts said that Montreal would be the team to beat in the East and that they had a shot at the Stanley cup for the team’s centennial year. It all started pretty well. They won eight out of their first 10 games, and accumulated 19 out of a possible 20 points (one OT loss).
As the season wore off, the team suffered many casualties, something they didn’t see much of last year.
There are probably two or three players who stood out of the crowd. Halak, Lang, Gorges, and Markov are among them. But to choose one, Halak would be a good choice.
Most of the times when Halak got the call to defend the Habs’ net, he simply delivered above expectations. Think about the four straight wins he registered when Carey Price was sidelined. Playing on his head would be an understatement. He did amazing things before he had to step down because he got sick.
I think the worse player out there was without a doubt Tomas Plekanec. Comparing to his record last year, he was simply invisible throughout the entire season. The poor kid is simply trying too hard. His problem is not his skills, (he has many). The problem resides between his two ears: he thinks too much.
Plekanec was bad this season, but another player was even worse. The over sized defenseman, Ryan O’Byrne, should be playing better than that. He’s got size and should bring his physique to the opponent. In the dead season he must go out there and try to find two things: a second and a pivot. He’s always a second too late and has a hard time pivoting when the opposing team dumps the puck on his side.
Robert Lang came as a surprise. Before his injury, he was the top scorer for the team. He has a great vision and jumps to the opportunity when he sees one without hesitation. Unfortunately, Lang suffered a tendon laceration to the heel and has been sidelined since.
Montreal has a good team, it is only a matter of finding the right combinations, and probably one or two additions in order to become a competitive team in the playoffs. The Habs will face the Bruins tonight at the TD Banknorth Arena. Historically, Montreal has the upper hand, winning 24 series out of 31 against Boston. But this year, the Bruins will be a tough cookie to chew on.
This is the playoffs. All counters are reset to zero. Let the best team win.