This article is what we might be reading at the end of this season if it all goes right for the Habs. The author is not a complete loon though, the article is the good news half of a 2-part “What If” series. What if all goes wrong is found here. I imagine, as usual, the truth will lie somewhere in the middle. But for now let’s jump forward in time a few months and ponder the best case scenario…
What a ride this was. Sure, two years ago the run to the conference finals was great but this, obviously, was even better. The Canadiens used a total team effort to go all the way to the Stanley Cup final.
Everybody chipped in, and it was the most balanced team the team has seen in years. Scott Gomez had an amazing bounce back year, racking up 68 points. Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri hit the 30 goal plateau. Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole popped in 25 as did Andrei Kostitsyn. Andrei Markov missed the first two weeks of the season, but came back and should be a Norris trophy candidate.
P.K. Subban took the next step in his development and watching him and Markov on the power play was something to behold. Teams couldn’t stop it. They rode it to the top of the league. The penalty kill was also fantastic. Tomas Plekanec (who had 75 points himself), Gionta, Gomez, Mathieu Darche, Travis Moen and Blair Betts were amazing and Hal Gill and Josh Gorges stood tall as well. A top PP unit and a top-5 PK leads to good things.
What to say about Carey Price. He should absolutely win the Vezina trophy. He played in 68 games and won 40 of them. Even Peter Budaj was good when called upon.
The biggest question entering the season was defence, but it was solid. Markov’s return helped but Gorges, Gill and Jaroslav Spacek did great. Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz and Chris Campoli also had great years. Not to mention Alexei Yemelin who shadowed Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs. Jacques Martin’s smartest move of this postseason run, putting faith in the youngster.
In the playoffs, it wasn’t always easy – it was another long series in round one against the Philadelphia Flyers but without Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, they didn’t have the key ingredients that led them over the Canadiens over the years. By exorcising that demon, the Canadiens had an easier road to the final.
Round two saw them face off against the Capitals. Alex Ovechkin started off strong, but in the end, the Canadiens didn’t allow a power play goal in the final three games of the series, and won it in six games. Martin tabbed Yemelin to shadow Ovechkin and it was, like I said before, a stroke of genius.
It led to a battle between the Northeast division champion Canadiens and the fourth-place Bruins. This series was back and forth, like it was a year ago. The difference this time was Cole and Pacioretty. They scored the winning goals in games two and three respectively, and Carey Price shut the Bruins out in game four. This year, they got that 3-1 lead. This year, they would beat the Bruins.
The final will not be an easy task. They face the Vancouver Canucks. A Canadian team will win the Stanley Cup, and there is no reason to believe that the Canadiens won’t be that team. The biggest challenge will be shutting down the Sedins, but after what they did to Ovechkin, you have to like their chances.
The Canadiens have three balanced scoring lines and it should be a great series. While I’m looking forward to the final getting underway, looking back it was quite the ride.