And now, the end is near; and so I face, the final curtain.
Barring an absolute miracle, the Canadiens' season will likely end tonight at the hands of the Boston Bruins, who have dominated the Habs from start to finish this season. Rather than explain why the Habs lost on Monday, rather than explain what they have done wrong in this series, rather than evaluate Bob Gainey's performance behind the bench, rather than discuss the much-too-frequent goaltending issues, rather than rip the players that take too many nights off and rather than look at why the Habs centennial season was such a disappointment for so many fans; I will take a page out of the rich history of the province of Quebec and play a little game called “Je Me Souviens”.
For those who don't speak French, the words that appear on every license plate in the Province mean “I remember”. So let's take a moment to remember all the positives from a long season….
Signs of a bright future in goal
While the goaltending has been marginal at best down the stretch and in the playoffs, Carey Price had a very good first half of the season until he got injured. He made a difference in quite a few games and has shown what he is capable of when focussed. He was the recipient of the Molson Cup for the most 3 star nominations this year, a testament to his ability to make a difference night after night. Jaroslav Halak isn't half bad either. He played well enough that I'm sure teams will come calling in the offseason in an effort to trade for the Slovak goaltender.
The best Habs D-man since the big 3 left town
Andrei Markov runs the show on the ice. He put up 64 points in 78 games, and his play in his own zone keeps getting better. He is one of the best defencemen in the Eastern Conference, and the Habs are lucky to have him locked in for the immediate future. It's too bad he went down with an injury, because Montreal lost their chance of competing with the Bruins with the loss of #79.
Most Improved Defenseman
Josh Gorges made major strides last year, and continued his progress this year. He did go through a rough stretch after the All Star Break, but other than that, he proved to be a consistent, reliable defenseman who can be effective in all situations.
The “New” Flying Frenchmen
It's important for Montreal to have a francophone presence on their team, and this year they got contributions from 3. The biggest surprise, and one of the most improved players in the entire NHL is Maxim Lapierre. Lapierre established himself as a very good 3rd line center who can score goals (15), be an effective shutdown forward (+9 rating) and mix it up with the other team when necessary (76 PIM). Statistically, Guillaume Latendresse had his best year by far. He put up 14 Gs and 12 As in 56 games, numbers which would have been better had he played the entire season. Also, for the first time in his career, he was a + in the plus-minus department, posting a +4 rating. He proved that when he focusses on playing the power forward game, he can be a very effective player. Finally, another guy who didn't have the chance to show his full potential was Alex Tanguay. Acquired in the offseason, Tanguay only played 50 games, but he had 41 points and was a team high +13. He was also part of the line that carried the team into the playoffs when they were struggling. I would like to see the team re-sign Tanguay.
Old Dogs show some new tricks
The Canadiens best player the first half of the season was Robert Lang. No one could have imagined how effective the “washed up” centerman was going to be, and he proved everyone wrong. Once again, a freak injury ended his season and possibly his career. Another veteran, Mathieu Schneider, was acquired at the deadline to help the PP. Schneider had an immediate impact, putting up 17 points in only 23 games (14 of which were on the powerplay). If the Habs are looking for a veteran presence on defense next year, look no further than Mathieu Schneider. Sure, he has his difficulties in the defensive zone, but he brings things to the table that you can't teach.
Bulldogs to the rescue!
With all of the injuries this year, it would have been very easy for the Habs to slip out of the playoff race. 3 Bulldogs in particular were called up this season and made an impact. Greg Stewart provided some grit and toughness in his 20 game callup. Max Pacioretty compiled 11 points in 34 games, but his value is more along the lines of being a workhorse on the ice, throwing his weight around and going to the net. Finally, Matt D'Agostini played in 53 games and had 12 goals. D'Agostini has a good work ethic and tremendous hands around the net. A full season with the club could see him put up 20-25 goals next year. I expect that all 3 will be in the lineup next year.
Canadiens' Prospects make some noise
Yannick Weber had an outstanding year running the powerplay in Hamilton. He has been decent in the Bruins series, but it is obvious he has some serious potential. PK Subban won a gold medal with Team Canada at the WJCs and played for one of the top teams in the OHL, the Belleville Bulls. Danny Kristo was a surprise pick by Team USA at the World Juniors. His speed and energy was very impressive. Ryan McDonagh and David Fischer, both playing NCAA hockey, continued to improve. Both were important parts of their respective teams and will likely play an even bigger role next year for their college clubs.
Enjoy the game tonight, and remember to think happy thoughts!
GO HABS GO!
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.