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The Montreal Canadiens: How Far Will They Go This Year?

Ahnaf AhmedContributor IIISeptember 15, 2011

The Montreal Canadiens: How Far Will They Go This Year?

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    The Montreal Canadiens are fresh off a heartbreaking Game 7 overtime loss in last season’s playoffs against the eventual champion Boston Bruins.

    The Canadiens just did not have enough firepower to beat a brick wall named Tim Thomas in extra time.

    This summer, the Habs made some key moves adding depth to the roster. Some significant acquisitions include signing Andrei Markov to a three-year extension, acquiring veteran forward Erik Cole and adding Peter Budaj to the roster.

    Are these acquisitions enough to propel the Canadiens to the promised land? 

Offense

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    The Canadiens struggled on offense last year. They were ranked 12th in the Eastern Conference in goals scored.

    However, the Canadiens have a nice set of top six forwards. Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta can score 30 goals at their best, and Tomas Plekanec racked up 70 points in his finest year.

    Erik Cole was a good acquisition for many reasons. Not only does he have offensive skills, but he is one of the best two-way forwards in the league. In addition,  Max Pacioretty showed some promise in the 2010-11 campaign.

    The only worrisome player in the Canadiens’ offense is Scott Gomez. Gomez’s production has been disappointing, especially for the amount of money the organization is paying him.

    The defensemen the Habs possess have some good offensive skills. Andrei Markov, when healthy, is a perennial 45-point scorer.  Montreal’s offense missed Markov a lot last year, when he missed some time due to a knee injury.

    In addition, P.K. Subban had a stellar rookie campaign. Subban was ranked third among rookie defensemen in total points last year and first in goals.

    Barring any major injuries, expect the Canadiens offense to be lethal this year, especially on the power play with Markov returning to the lineup.    

Defense

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    In spite of the departures of James Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik, the Canadiens have a nice core of defensemen, .

    Injuries were a problem in the defensive department for the Habs last year. However, the injured players seem to be recovering quite well.

    Josh Gorges is expected to be in the lineup on opening night after missing more than half of last year due to a torn ACL. Andrei Markov is also expected to return on opening night. Both Gorges and Markov are huge contributors to the Canadiens defense.

    Max Pacioretty could help the Canadiens defense with his hard-hitting style of play. Also, the signing of Erick Cole ameliorates the Habs defense and penalty kill.

    The Habs might shine on defense this year, assuming that the roster does not suffer from any major injuries. 

Goaltending

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    Many hardcore Canadiens fans were upset in the summer of 2010 due to Jaroslav Halak’s departure and feared that Price would fail the Habs with his goaltending.

    Price proved his critics wrong.

    The young netminder had a stellar year. His 2.35 GAA and his 0.923 save percentage were both career bests, and among the league's best.

    The addition of Peter Budaj adds depth to the goaltending position. If Price keeps up his elite goaltending and if Budaj plays like a solid backup, Canadien fans have nothing to worry about.     

Overall Prediction

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    Considering the depth the Canadiens possess, as well as the world-class coaching staff, expect the Habs to make a deep run in the Playoffs.

    The Canadiens are still missing that world-class skilled player that can carry them to the next level, but will their depth erase the need of an elite player? Will they bring the Cup to Montreal without a top-notch player?

    If Carey Price keeps up his stellar goaltending, anything is possible.   ,

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