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Revival in Montreal: Canadiens Year-End Review

Matt Eichel@@mattyalloutSenior Writer IApril 5, 2008

The hockey gods couldn't have scripted a better ending to a turn around year. From a playoff exit in game 82 in 2006-07 to a 104 point season a year later, the Montreal Canadiens have been revived...and it's bringing back images of the dynasties of old.

"It's almost hard to believe," stated Mark Streit on the Canadiens' success from last season to this season. "I was thinking about that before the game... and that game last year in Toronto was a really emotional game with such a heartbreaking end...but this year it's like a complete turnaround."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Provided the Detroit Red Wings do not score more than 9 goals in their season finale, the 2007-08 version of Les Canadiens will be the highest scoring team in the NHL. Compared to their -11 goal differential in a 9th place finish last year, the Canadiens are +40 in their goal differential this season, thanks in part to solid goaltending and a revived fire from their impact players.

Alex Kovalev's team-leading 84 points was his second highest point total in his career. Kovalev's best point producing season came back in 2000-01 with a star-laden Pittsburgh Penguin lineup featuring Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, and Martin Straka, all on top of their games. But in Montreal Kovalev is the star and the inspiration for the young guns coming up.

Speaking of the young guns, Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec, and Chris Higgins have all benefitted from Kovalev. All three have netted over 25 goals and over 50 points this season. The younger Kostitsyn has played consistently as well and is shaping up to be a great speedy winger in the future.

It was a break-out year for Andrei Markov and the entire Montreal defense. Markov finished the year with over 55 points and solidified himself as one of the best defensemen in the league with an All-Star Game selection in Atlanta. Future Norris Trophy candidate Mike Komisarek was a rock on the blue line, leading the league in hits and blocked shots until his injury. Not to be outdone, Mark Streit stepped into the hole left by Sheldon Souray and benefitted, scoring over 60 points and being the quarterback on the Canadiens' league-leading power-play.

After Cristobal Huet was dealt to the Washington Capitals, Carey Price has been strong down the stretch and has pulled himself into the limelight and consideration for the Calder Trophy. With a 24-12-3 record, Price has shown that he can excel as a number one goalie in the NHL and a dominate when he is in the zone.

Montreal's special teams have improved vastly over the season. Along with that, Montreal revived a slumping home record early in the year to finish out the season with a strong 22-13-6 record in the Bell Centre.

On top of that, Montreal is tops in the East when it comes to playing teams from the East, with a 44-20-8 record versus conference opponents (largely due to the 8 wins against the Boston Bruins and 4 versus Philadelphia Flyers). With an 8-1-1 record in their last ten games, coming into playoff action, it doesn't matter what occurs in Sunday's game between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, because Montreal will be up against Boston in the first round.

With an 11-game win streak and a 23-7 playoff series record against Boston, Montreal fans are in for a first round treat this season. It's playoff hockey...and a whole new game!

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