Every playoff season Montreal Canadiens fans rally around a slogan “feels like ’93”. There is even a rap song by Annakin Slayd that pays homage to the last Habs team that won a Stanley Cup.
The problem here is it doesn’t have to feel like 1993. It has to feel like 2014. No fan base or organization clings to its past as the Montreal Canadiens do. It’s time to let the past go and focus on what this team can do now.
Whether most believe it or not, what this hockey team can do now is compete for a Stanley Cup. The Canadiens don’t have the star power that the Pittsburgh Penguins have. Nor do they have the complete team toughness element that the Boston Bruins bring to the table. On paper this team is an afterthought in the race for Lord Stanley’s cup
However, the game isn’t played on paper. The best teams on paper aren’t always the best. In the movie “Miracle” coach Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell) said, “I’m not looking for the best players. I’m looking for the right players. What this Habs team has to offer are the right players.
Back in July Montreal GM Marc Bergevin felt that “you have players that get you in the playoffs, and there’s players that get you through the playoffs.” The Canadiens have a player of this ilk on their roster. Although diminutive in size Daniel Briere is large in playoff performances. Briere is 5th among active players with points in the playoffs tallying 109 points in 108 games. His level of play rises on the biggest stages. “I want to be the guy that makes the big play”, is how Briere sees himself when April comes knocking. Briere showed spurts in the regular season that his talent level is still elite, in the playoffs if history repeats itself it will show every night.
It won’t be the Danny Briere show in the playoffs. The line that will have to carry the team is that of Thomas Vanek, Max Pacioretty, and David Desharnais. The trio seemed to catch lightning in a bottle down the stretch in the regular season making the Habs a much better 5 on 5 team. Vanek is going to have to show more of a desire to shoot the puck when the post season starts. Too many times in the last few games of the regular season he opted to pass off to Max Pacioretty than shoot the puck himself.
Although, the Habs are missing Alex Galchenyuk for the time being the rest of the offense is good enough to get the job done. The ultra offensive first line will be counter set with lines that can not only grind but score. Bergevin traded for Dale Weise for a reason. The bottom six are an area teams need to be great at in the playoffs. While not the Boston Bruins or the St.Louis Blues, the Habs character players are capable of carrying a team. It’s also easy to forget about Tomas Plekanec. He was highly criticized for “playing like a girl” in the postseason. At practice he was flanked with wingers Brendan Gallagher and Brandon Prust. With those two flying on his sides the little girl moniker won’t be around this post season.
PK Subban may very well be one of the most polarizing players in the NHL, he’ll make a great play then seconds later disaster of a play leavings fans, teammates, and coaches scratching their heads. Make no bones about it though PK can play. In the playoffs he will have to be smarter with his decisions something head coach Michel Therrien touched on “When there’s an opening, he’s got the green light to go. But he has to make the right decision.”
Lost in the the fray of can Subban make the right call on when to go is the other defense the Canadiens offer. Andrei Markov has been a staple of the Habs for years. He is a consistent top 20 scoring threat for NHL defensemen. Markov is also the true quaterback of the teams power play. Along with Josh Gorges are a stabilizing element to the D corps. While not lauded for their size or grit the back end has a lot to offer. Mike Weaver has been a force since coming over from the Panthers. As a player he is defensively sound and adds a lot the penalty kill. Douglas Murray while not fleet of foot adds a physical aspect teams need in the playoffs. Add rookie Jarred Tinordi to the fold, the Candiens have enough size speed and skill on the back end to be contenders.
There is this adage about playoff hockey. The team with the hottest goaltender is the team to beat. Carey Price needs to finally be the hottest goalie in the playoffs. Price, was a key to the Habs regular season success far and away he was this teams MVP. On more than one occasion the
Bell Centre chanted “Carey,Carey” as he was the only reason his team was not fun out of the building. Every time Price had critics he answered them. Many where unsure if he could be the backstop Canada needed to win a gold medal. He was. Now the questions are can he be the backstop to lead the Habs back to Stanley Cup glory?
The Habs aren’t the scariest team on paper, they might not even be the scariest team on the ice. They are however the right team. 1993 was 21 years ago. That’s too long of a memory to hold on to. It’s time for the Habs to make fans talk about 2014.