One Prediction for Each of the Montreal Canadiens' Top Stars in 2013-14
The Montreal Canadiens' 2013-14 season is officially under way. And although things didn't go exactly as planned on opening night, there's still a lot of hockey left to be played.
The Canadiens roster features some already-established stars and others who are on the brink of stardom. Their individual success will play a big role in how Montreal finishes as a team this season.
Here is one prediction for each of the Montreal Canadiens' top stars in 2013-14.
Prediction: Subban leads NHL defensemen in power-play points. Again.
P.K. Subban is fresh off of a career year that saw him win the Norris Trophy for best defenseman in the NHL. Expectations are high for 2013-14, but he should be able to deliver once again.
Subban is one of the top power-play defensemen in hockey today. He proved that with 26 power-play points in just 42 games last season. His skill set caters perfectly to playing with the man advantage, and he has a legitimate chance to lead defensemen in power-play points again this season.
His shot from the point is lethal. Opposing goalies know it, and so does the Montreal coaching staff. The Canadiens power play was successful last season when P.K. was getting one-timer opportunities. Expect them to do the same in 2013-14.
Shooting opportunities generally lead to points. Even when Subban's shots don't find the back of the net, Montreal's forwards are always waiting to pounce on a rebound.
Subban will be the focal point of Montreal's power play unit in 2013-14, and he could very well end up leading all defensemen in power-play points once more.
Prediction: Pacioretty reaches the 35-goal mark.
Max Pacioretty has developed into Montreal's top-scoring option up front. He has led the team in points in each of the last two seasons while putting up 15 goals in the 2012-13 lockout season and 33 the year before that.
Look for Pacioretty to continue his rise and reach the 35-goal plateau this season. Doing so would cement his position among the best goal scorers in the game—only 14 players were able to reach 35 goals in the last 82-game season.
The 2013-14 season is an important one for Pacioretty. He'll try to help the Canadiens prove to the rest of the NHL that their 2013 success was no fluke. He'll also be vying for a coveted spot on Team USA in the Sochi 2014 Olympics.
Pacioretty has proved he belongs among the best goal scorers in hockey. He'll attempt to reach a career mark in goals this season.
Prediction: Eller will be the No. 1 center by midseason.
Lars Eller faced a make-or-break 2012-13 season.
The main piece acquired by the Habs in the Jaroslav Halak trade back in 2010 had had a rocky time in Montreal. Mediocre seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12 were marred with inconsistencies, and Habs fans grew frustrated. He came very close to being labeled a bust.
Eller was under the microscope in Montreal last year, and he stepped up, delivering 30 points in 48 games. Not bad for a third-line center.
This year, expect Eller to continue his growth. He reported to camp with 20 pounds of extra muscle and last year's playoff incident behind him. He'll also start on a line with skilled wingers Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.
Eller plays a solid two-way game and possesses offensive upside that most third-lines centers don't. His two-goal performance on opening night proved that. Look for him to play his way onto Montreal's top line by midseason at the latest.
Prediction: Briere finishes second in team scoring.
Daniel Briere had a nightmarish season post-lockout. Injuries played a big part, however, and he expects to have a bounce-back year in 2013-14.
He is fully healthy for the first time since early in the 2011-12 season. Multiple concussions and a broken wrist have obviously effected his play since then.
There's also the motivation for being bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers and for finally playing in front of his home crowd.
Briere is on the wrong side of 30, but that doesn't mean he can't still produce. Just three seasons ago, he managed 87 points in 77 games. That number might not be realistic for 2013-14, but 65-70 points this season seems attainable.
And so Briere begins his quest to silence his critics who say his career is all but done. Would finishing just behind Max Pacioretty in team scoring count as a rebound year? Absolutely.
Prediction: Price finishes as a Vezina finalist in 2013-14.
Carey Price probably imagined the first game this season going a little differently. Granted, he did make 34 saves, but he was also the victim of a couple of tough bounces and ultimately let in four goals and took the loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But one game doesn't make a season. There are still 81 games left to be played.
Price faces a make-or-break season in 2013-14. His mediocre performance post-lockout has put him on a bit of a hot seat in Montreal. A repeat performance of last year could have him run out of town.
Don't expect that to happen.
Canadiens management knows Price can carry a team, and it's doing all it can to support him. Bringing in goaltending guru Stephane Waite from the Chicago Blackhawks was one of the most underrated moves made in the NHL last summer.
Waite's brilliance will combine with Price's maturity to help push him over the top. He's a far better goalie than the numbers he put up in 2013. The time to prove that to the NHL is now.
Price has all the talent in the world, and expect it to be on display this season. His hot play in 2013-14 will earn him Team Canada's starting job and have him listed as a Vezina finalist come June.