At the beginning of this season most of the knowledgable pundits agreed that only after a period of 20 or so games would the Montreal Canadiens truly know what they were. Those pundits aregued that Montreal fans would need to show patience while the coaches and squad figured out exactly what their personality was. That 20 game mark has come and gone, and while we do know some about what kind of team we are, there is still much to learn. Here are some things I think we know at Game 25 about our Montreal Canadiens.
1. This team battles. I can’t think of a better way to say it. At no time during this season has Montreal displayed the type of cohesive effort that anyone could confuse them with an upper-echelon team. That said, they have suprised almost everyone with their ability to find ways to win hockey games. I love this team’s guts. I love that our lineup was missing $26 million in elite players last night and found a way to win against legitimate competition. I love that our defense has been decimated with injury – and yet, they have found a way to not only compete, but excel in front of Carey Price.
2. Carey Price is legit. Last year there were so many times when all of us questioned whether Carey Price was capable of being an elite goalie in the NHL. Carey has bailed out the Canadiens time and time again to start this season. I personally believe that he (and Jaro for that matter) are the reason that Montreal can continue to hope for the playoffs while the Maple Leafs are playing for the draft (Boston’s draft that is).
3. Mike Cammalleri. What can you say about the little guy? Its been a LONG time since the Habs had a pure scorer like him. He is already well on his way to becoming a legitimate superstar on one of the biggest stages in the sport.
4. I’ve been saying this since last season, but for Montreal to succeed the youth have to step up. Last night we saw fantastic games from Ryan O’Byrne, Andrei and Sergei K, Ryan White, Tommy Pyatt, Max Pacioretti and Maxime Lapierre. The result was a huge Montreal win. Consistency will be key. If the young players can fill gaps when the big guys falter, it will make the Canadiens a dangerous team to play.
5. Hold on. If the Habs can hang on by playing within Jaques Martin’s system until Andrei Markov returns they will be a force to be reckoned with this post season. Markov is second only to Lidstrom in points as a defenseman since the lockout. He is among the most dynamic and solid defenders in the game. His addition to this roster will be the most important factor in this season. The only question is can the Habs make it?
Pens tonight. A huge test on back to back nights. Go Habs Go!!!