They won’t do it again.
Part of their success was because of their domination of the Bruins in the regular season, where the Habs had eight wins and no losses against Boston. That won’t happen again, and that means they’ll fall a couple of spots in the standings. But they’ll still make the playoffs easily, and their success will be measured in the postseason.
Forwards: The Habs probably have the deepest lineup in the league. They can roll three lines that always have a chance of scoring, and a fourth line that can bang.
Alexei Kovalev will try to lead this team again with his play. Saku Koivu will lead this team with his heart.
Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang were brought in through trades. They will help this team stay as the top powerplay in the league for the third year in a row.
Their youth will be expected to continue their progression,
Probably their best pickup this offseason was Georges Laraque. He’ll give the Habs the grit they need, and will take on the fighting duties so some of their other key players won’t have to.
Defence: An underrated defence. They have a powerplay point guy in Andrei Markov, a defensive guy in Roman Hamrlik and the league’s best shot blocker/checker for defencemen last season in Mike Komisarek. They also have youth guys in Josh Gorges and Francis Bouillon. They’ll be find on the back end for years to come.
Goaltending: Carey Price is the guy in Montreal. He needs to make sure whatever happened to him in the playoffs last year does not happen again. But then again, the guy is 21 years old. There’s a lot of pressure on him to lead this team to victory, but the Habsneed to make sure he’s protected and not let the pressure ruin his future, as have happened with many goalies who played in Montreal.
Also the media need to come up withsome new cliches instead of just using “The Price is Right” or “Price-less” all the time. Why not be creative with his first name? Something like “Price Careys team to playoffs” or something amongst those lines.
Pool picks: Look for Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang to improve on their point totals. Tanguay because he’s not on a purely defensive team anymore, and Lang because he’ll have better linemates and a better opportunity to get points then he had in Chicago. Stay away from: Saku Koivu. He doesn’t have to worry about getting points, and can focus more on defensive hockey. He’ll be a leader in other ways.
Miscellaneous: Mats Sundin who? The Habs were smart to try and sign Sundin in the offseason, and were even smarter when they realized he wouldn’t be making a decision anytime soon, so they moved on. If Sundin decides to come back halfway through the season, the Canadiens can make a trade if they sign him (Chris Higgins would net a good draft pick or two). But for now, they don’t need him.
It’s also the 100th anniversary of the team, so they’ll be doing everything they can to be competitive, and to honour their past.
Expected finish: Second in the Northeast division, fourth in the Eastern conference
Overall:This may be the only chance the Habs have to win the Stanley Cup. Ten of their regular players will be unrestricted free agents after this season (Tanguay, Koivu, Kovalev, Lang, Begin, Kostopoulos, Bouillon, Dandenault, Komisarek and Brisebois). Another four will be restricted free agents (Higgins, Plekanec, Chipchura and Latendresse). That’s going to lead to a lot of players leaving this team next summer, just because they won’t be able to keep all those players, and the younger ones will be getting pay raises.
But until then, this is a team that will compete for the Stanley Cup.