Habs Fever: Is this for real?
By Brian Wilde, ctvmontreal.ca
Published Friday, October 29, 2010 10:18PM EDT
Alright, who out there can say that they saw this coming? Don't lie to me!
Sure, maybe you want to argue that you thought they would get off to a pretty good start, or that you were confident in Carey Price and you thought they would be better than most people expected. But don't tell me you saw this coming.
Fifteen out of a possible twenty points to start the season for the Habs is surely better than even the most optimistic person saw coming.
Who among you said the Habs would be in first place in the conference after the first ten games of the season? If you did, then I would guess that you are one of those fans who say that no matter what. Even if the team is picked to be last in the conference, has no talent at all, using a minor league goalie, you would still guess first place because that's what you do.
I will tell you that I was decidedly negative about this season. Here are all the ways that I got it wrong:
- I thought they would have a playoff hangover. That they went so far and burned so much energy that they would start poorly. However, it is Philadelphia who seems to have the hangover so far out of the teams that went far.
- I thought that Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak was an excellent partnership and Price would have a hard time carrying the load when he didn't have the support of the other goalie.
- I thought that Alex Auld, when he came in, would not be able to carry the load when called upon. One game does not prove a point, but it is a start.
- I thought the powerplay couldn't be as good as the numbers put up last year and as a result the long-established pattern of having difficulty scoring five-on-five would leave them a goal short a lot of nights.
- I thought some of their defencemen were aging rapidly and they would suffer accordingly.
- I thought that Andrei Markov would not be back until December when I made my predictions in August and as a result the season would be basically out of reach by the time that he returned. The Habs have never won without Markov.
- I thought they would keep allowing 40 shots a night, which is unsustainable, unlike during last year's playoff run.
Back to the drawing board
All of the things that I thought, they made a lot of sense to me when I thought them. Hmmmmm, back to the drawing board. I might be right on some of the issues in the long run, but so far I have had seven thoughts and all of them are completely wrong. The Habs are winning games and they seem to have the attitude that they completely expected that it would go this way. They have a matter-of-fact calmness to their comments after the game.
So when you look at the ten games at this point, the natural question you have to ask: Is this the best that it can be for the Habs this year? The truth is the answer is, "No, not even close. Believe it or not, they can be way better than this."
Here's why: Andrei Markov hasn't played yet. The powerplay is brutal so far this season, so wait until it gets better. Jaroslav Spacek is struggling but will be better when he is partnered with Roman Hamrlik and plays less because of Markov's return. Mike Cammalleri hasn't broken out to get his scoring stride going yet. P.K. Subban looks good, but he is going to look great sooner rather than later. Scott Gomez has been a better second half player throughout his career. Hal Gill takes a little while to get that big motor running. Brian Gionta's numbers will be better, too. I remain certain that Benoit Pouliot can convince his brain that his body belongs in the NHL.
Conversely then, you have to ask who cannot sustain what they have done so far this season in considering the argument that it can get better from here. So here is the list of why the Habs can't keep this up: Still thinking. Still thinking. Got one. Andrei Kostitsyn can't keep up a pace like this. I can't think of anything else. That's not much of a list of negatives. Perhaps, the goalie or Tomas Plekanec can't keep it this hot, but I have a hunch they can.
There you have it. I'm a convert.
No, scratch that. I'm a dummy.