Friday, September 24, 2010

2010-2011 Montreal Canadiens Preview

The Montreal Canadiens
The Jonestown of the NHL
If you **** up at your job, do you have 20,000+ angry French people threatening to kill you?

Last Year's Results

39 wins, 33 losses, 10 OTL, 88 points, 18th overall

Team Analysis

The Habs surprised the league with a deep run through three rounds of the playoffs last season riding a spectacular performance from goaltender Jaroslav Halak upsetting arguably the two best teams in the league. This off-season the Canadiens made the controversial decision to trade Halak and deciding to entrust former 5th overall pick Carey Price as their goaltender of the future. The Canadiens boast one of the more balanced teams in the league with adequate top end players and solid depth in every position. However the question for this team is will 23-year old Carey Price who's been inconsistent so far in his NHL career be able to survive playing in arguably the most pressure filled job in all of hockey?

Leading the Habs up front is center Tomas Plekanec who had a career year with 70 points last season. Plekanec is something of a streaky scorer but boasts a solid two-way game and will be given some talented wingers to play with this season. The possibly the leading goal scorer for the Habs will be winger Michael Cammalleri who's one of the most underrated players in the league. Cammalleri had a fantastic playoffs while being one of the biggest heroes on this club last year. Look for Cammalleri to eclipse 30 goals if he can stay healthy. Challenging Cammalleri to be the leading scorer on the Canadiens is venerable veteran and new captain Brian Gionta who is also a strong candidate to break 30 goals. Gionta is a small feisty goal scorer with a flair for clutch scoring who's become this team's leader and a fan favorite. 

Scott Gomez was acquired in a highly controversial trade to be the top six playing making center the Canadiens had lacked since the departure of Saku Koivu. While Gomez hasn't played up to one of the largest contracts in the league, he has been the offensive pivot the Habs were seeking. Gomez has found a home in Montreal clicking with long-time linemate Brian Gionta. Andrei Kostitsyn has been the very stereotype of the streaky Russian scorer. The inconsistent winger has shown absolute flashes of brilliance while also showing flashes of lousy work ethic and prima donna mentality. Kostitsyn is one of those players who could be so much more yet will probably remain enigmatic through this career. Even with the question marks surrounding him, Kostitsyn will still knock down a point every other game. Filling out the top six will be Benoit Pouliot who came to life after a win-win change of scenery trade. Pouliot scored 24 points in 39 games after the trade and for the first time in his career looked like a legit top six player. Look for Pouliot to carry that momentum into this season.

Filling out the bottom six will be 21-year old Lars Eller who was acquired from St. Louis in the Halak trade. Eller is a former 13th overall pick and is a playmaking forward that can play both wing and center. Eller will be baptized in fire in his rookie campaign this season as he'll be heavily relied upon for offensive production in the Hab bottom six and could very well find himself rising up the depth chart. Also playing significant minutes on the third line will be agitating energy player Maxim Lapierre who will look to have a career defining year. Lapierre is at a bit of a crossroads right now as he's shown the potential to be a top checking player but has lacked the consistency. Lapierre is definitely the best candidate on the Habs to have a career year. The Habs acquired talented grinder Dustin Boyd this off-season from the Predators. Boyd is a talented penalty killer and will contribute a respectable amount of points.

Rounding out the forward core is recent UFA signee Jeff Halpren who will contribute in a defensive center role. Gritty grinder and PKer Travis Moen will likely shift between the bottom two lines. 23-year old defensive forward Tom Pyatt will see significant time on the fourth line. Depth winger Mathieu Darche will be the 13th forward. 21-year old former 22nd overall pick Max Pacioretty will likely bounce between the AHL and the Habs.

The defense is led by one of the most talented defensemen in the league Andrei Markov who can excel in all three zones and any situation. Markov is somewhat brittle and unfortunately will begin the season on the injured reserve list with no real timeline on his return. However Markov has one of the highest points to game ratios of any defensemen in the NHL. Likely playing with Markov on the first pairing this season will be crafty veteran Jaroslav Spacek who's been one of the most consistent defensemen since the lockout. Spacek is one of the better second tier defensemen in the league as he's been a solid point producer from the backend and can also play penalty kill minutes. Look for Spacek to log number one minutes for several games this season. 

Roman Hamrlik is another versatile defenseman who excels in the defensive end but can also rack up a respectable amount of points from the blueline. Hamrlik was the subject of many trade rumors this off-season however Hamrlik will be a stabilizing influence on the Habs' second pairing. Likely playing with Hamrlik on the second pairing will be talented 21-year old offensive defenseman PK Subban. Already a fan favorite in Montreal, Subban had a coming out party in last season's playoffs scoring 8 points in 14 games. Subban is a going to be in the running for the Calder this season if he can carry his play and momentum from last season into this year. 

Rounding out the defensive core is 6-7 giant defensive defenseman Hal Gill who's one of the better penalty killing defensemen in the league. Gill is the type of player who's derided for 82 games in the regular season and then becomes a folk hero in the playoffs. Gill doesn't have much use in the offensive zone but he'll be the de facto shutdown defenseman in Montreal. Likely playing with Gill on the third pairing will be defensive defenseman Josh Gorges who's developed quite nicely into an integral part of Montreal's defensive group. Look for Gorges to get substantial minutes on the penalty kill. Filling in as the seventh defenseman will be physical defensive defenseman Ryan O'Byrne.

The Canadiens have an interesting situation in net with three potential goaltenders. Likely to get the bulk of starts in Montreal will be 23-year old former fifth overall pick Carey Price who's had a rough ride so far in his pro career. Price has all the potential in the world but unfortunately hasn't been able to put it together in the most intense job in hockey. The organization is banking huge on Price to be able to live up to his fifth overall tag and become their franchise goaltender however Price has cracked in the past and should be considered fragile. The Habs signed dependable 1B goaltender Alex Auld this off-season to back up Price. Auld is a big positional goalie who could get as many as 40 games this season if Price collapses. Also in the mix is 24-year old Karri Ramo who was acquired in a strange trade with Tampa Bay this off-season. Ramo will likely start in the AHL this season but will look to factor into the Habs' long term plans and could see games in the NHL this season if something kooky happens. 

Team Trending

A lot of things are going to have to go right for the Canadiens for them to make the post season. The biggest question mark is of course Carey Price whom I personally feel will fall apart before January. The Habs also have several key players who are fairly injury prone. However the Habs have one of the most experienced and crafty coaches in the league in Jacques Lemaire and a competent general manager in Pierre Gauthier. Look for the Habs to be a bubble playoff team and come in somewhere between 16th-21st in the league. 

BVB's Opening Night Line-Up



Player Projections


Benoit Pouliot - 26 G/20 A 46 P
Scott Gomez - 14 G/45 A 59 P
Brian Gionta - 30 G/24 A 54 P

Michael Cammalleri - 30 G/31 A 61 P
Tomas Plekanec - 23 G/36 A 59 P
Andrei Kostitsyn - 18 G/22 A 40 P

Lars Eller - 16 G/21 A 37 P
Maxim Lapierre - 12 G/15 A 27 P
Travis Moen - 9 G/9 A 18 P

Dustin Boyd - 10 G/10 A 20 P
Jeff Halpren - 6 G/10 A 16 P
Tom Pyatt - 2 G/5 A 7 P


Andrei Markov - 8 G/31 A 39 P
Jaroslav Spacek - 6 G/23 A 29 P
Roman Hamrlik - 5 G/26 A 31 P
PK Subban - 9 G/29 A 38 P
Hal Gill - 1 G/10 A 11 P
Josh Gorges - 2 G/10 A 12 P
Ryan O'Byrne - 0 G/6 A 6 P


Carey Price - 23-23-7 | 2.93 GAA | .907 Sv% 
Alex Auld - 13-12-4 | 2.72 GAA | .909 Sv%

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