Habs’ play very sound hockey, but that won’t be enough this season.
A no-cost move like the free-agent signing of Daniel Briere gives them a clutch performer come playoff time even though he’s been in a steady decline with his rate of play throughout the regular season. He can help provide guidance for some of the younger players as well. Tough guy George Parros is a useful player. Although no one expects him to be a game breaker, he will definitely help Prust shoulder the tough guy load.
Their forwards are in my opinion a group that can create more problems than opportunities. Although they all have skill, Pacioretty, Gallagher and Gionta provide a shoot first mentality. Gionta in particular has been hit with 2 long-term injuries in consecutive seasons and his age is a concern. Viewers are quick to jump on the fact the Habs have some size lacking in the forward group but I think the main issue is not size but their ability to play “big”. Only a handful of their forwards fall under 6 feet but only a select few use their size to their advantage.
This season I believe Lars Eller can surprise a lot of people: I think he will show he can log in big minutes especially given his size- he’s exactly what the Habs need down the middle. Over the last 2 years, he nearly doubled his point per game production from .35 (11-12) to .65(12-13). If he can play with a shooter on a regular basis and develop some kind of chemistry, he could log 40 helpers on the year.
Coming off from winning his first Norris trophy, PK Subban and Habs’ fans hope that he can keep that same pace throughout this year. He’ll be much more heavily marked this year but that only means less pressure on aging Andrei Markov who will gladly accept the role reversal and have less pressure to keep his spot on the roster secure. Both Ds have great vision and this talent, especially on the power play has been one of the most effective tools for them in close games during the last few seasons. The injury to Alexei Emelin marked a terrible loss that is still greatly underestimated. Jarred Tinordi should be able to slowly take his development to the next level with varied playing time before becoming a regular on the lineup. Gorges will provide his consistent ability to block shots and help Carey Price while coach Therrien’s defensive system forces the majority of shots to come from the perimeter.
Price it should have a different year after Montreal recruited and finally acquired a new goalie coach. Stephane Waite is familiar to Marc Bergevin: both had worked together in Chicago. Waite is overall a very good resource for Habs future in goalkeeping not simply for Price but also for their young prospect Fucale. While goalie coach is not what immediately comes to mind during conversations on Cup victories, Waite has helped Niemi and Crawford take Chicago to that Promised Land.
The coming season should be good for to the Young Habs’ development and although they are ranked fifth could possibly jump up 1 or 2 spots by season’s end.