The Montreal Canadiens are coming off of a Cinderella type season, where the so called experts picked them to finish anywhere between 10th and 13th in their conference. Instead, we saw the emergence of Kostitsyn and Plekanec, the resurgence of Alex Kovalev and the Good, the Bad and the Ugly side of Carey Price. The end result was a spectacular surprise first place in the East and a disappointing second round exit in the playoffs.
What do the 2008-9 Habs have in store for us?
The loss of little used Michael Ryder, Brian Smolinski and Patrice Brisboise will not have much of an effect on this team. Montreal will miss Mark Streit, their versatile power play point specialist and winger. However, with the emergence of O Byrne and Gorges as NHL regulars made him expendable.
The addition of Alex Tanguay and George Laraque should transform a good side into a great side. Tanguay should be able to light up the net with Koivu and Higgins, while Laraque is arguably the best enforcer in the game, and the likes of Kovalev and Kostitsyn should not have to fight their own battles.
Young Thomas Plekanec and Andre Kostitsyn broke out as bona fide NHL stars last year playing with Kovalev, and were even referred to as the best line in hockey several times throughout the season. Perhaps best line is a little optimistic, but there is no reason to think that either player will loose a step in the next season and every reason to believe they will continue to improve.
The Montreal defence is not going to look much different than last year. Look for Markov to run the power play, and eat up most of the minutes with Hamrlik and Komisarek. I believe Gorges and O Byrne will both see an increase in playing time, while veterans Bouillon and Dandenault will see a decrease in action. In fact, look for Dandenault to find most of his ice time on the wing.
The biggest area of concern is in between the pipes. Is Carey Price the next Patrick Roy or the next Steve Penny? If the latter, can Halak or Denis step up to the plate? While there are question marks, there is every reason to believe that at least one of the three will provide adequate goaltending. They can’t all stink at exactly the same time, and the competition should be healthy.
Top Goal Scorer: Andre Kostitsyn (40)
Most Points: Alex Kovalev (90)
Breakout Player: Kyle Chipchura
Disappointment: Chris Higgins