Habs Fever: Setting sail to the playoffs
Published Tuesday, October 1, 2013 3:52PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 1, 2013 7:19PM EDT
The horizon always looks so gorgeous when you look out into a great big sea, but the waves on the shore are so much calmer than the storms that await.
The calm wave dying on the sand gives the appearance that nothing could go wrong and all will be smooth to sail. That is how it appears to be right now for the Montreal Canadiens.
Hope floats confidently. Everyone as they evaluate each individual player has their best image of him intact, but it is the players' talent dissected fairly that actually makes for a comprehensive and honest evaluation. Only then can we see what the waters may look like from the perspective of the middle of the ocean.
The players in demise are few on the Montreal Canadiens and those in ascension are in more abundance. Originally, I believed the Habs would have a number of players who would drop levels, but upon further review......
Andrei Markov worked very hard to get strong this summer. He looked tired last year at season's end. This season it is my feeling in a contract year with a stronger knee than last that Markov at least maintains his performance of last season, if not play even better.
Brian Gionta's numbers are slowing clearly, but they were not so good last year, so any drop off will not be that noticeable. In fact, he may maintain here.
Francis Bouillon dropped his level at year end as he starts to age, but again not a go to player, but a support player. Any drop in level from Bouillon will not be catastrophic.
Same story for Travis Moen who is a problem spot but who is not a major player on this team with only fourth line minutes.
Raphael Diaz seems to have dropped his game as well, but once more, not a 23 minute guy having difficulty, but a support player.
So if none of the huge parts of the Canadiens are deteriorating from the team that finished second in the conference last year, then would that not indicate that a second place finish is possible again? But what if some of the parts are better than last year which would indicate even more success? Let's list the examples of major components of this team potentially better than last year:
Carey Price had his hardest moments as a pro last year in the second half. He lost his net technically. He needed help drastically and got it in a new goaltender coach. Remember Price posted a save percentage of 880 in the last 10 games and was nearly as bad in the playoffs. Those numbers are horrible. Price has been a 915 to 920 goalie in his career, so it was a massive amount of bad from Price last season. A recovery from Price in his game to the 920 mark is tantamount to a half a goal a game in the Habs favour.
David Desharnais is the first line center of the team to start the season and he was also poor after a great full season with Pacioretty and Cole the year before. It is harsh to predict even a worse season than last for Desharnais. If he finds his form of two years ago, that keys a lot of positives on his line, especially Pacioretty who may just have a break out year.
Can the EGG line be better than last year? The early predictions are yes, but I believe it might be a tough year for the two Gallys and they may only put in like numbers this year to last before breaking out the following season. Eller will have to recover from the psychological trauma of the concussion of last year. So I am only prepared to call the EGG to last year, even though I expect greatness from all three down the road. Point is the future is bright there, but the transition is on. The second season the two Gallys can expect more attention than last.
PK Subban even though he won the Norris can be better too. More than that, he can be used better. Michel Therrien needs to use him on the PK and get his minutes up to 28 to 30 on a regular basis and just on that increased ice time the Canadiens are better.
There are three new players on the roster over last season. Daniel Briere is a wash from Cole and Ryder of last year. Briere's point totals have fallen over the last two years. I believe he will maintain his total from last season. George Parros adds a toughness in fight form the Habs have lacked. He should help the more timid players to feel taller. Jarred Tinordi is a new addition as well taking the place of Emelin and what is an improvement here is when December rolls around and both of those great hitting defenceman are in the line up together intimidating opposing forwards with their bone crushing hits.
I am seeing many predictions that the Montreal Canadiens miss the playoffs. This even from the Montreal media. Last year, I was one of only two mainstream media members in the entire country to predict a Habs playoff spot, and I am predicting it again this season with the Habs coming in 6th in the conference in points which will actually make them the number 7 seed and first wild card winner.
I have dropped the team down to 6th in the conference from 2nd because they would have finished much lower in the conference last year if the Bruins had won on that last night, so basically it is a like prediction from last season, then I drop them down because the Detroit Red Wings weren't around last year.
In fact, don't get me started on the stupidity of the NHL to have 16 teams vying for 8 playoff spots in one conference and 14 teams for 8 in the other conference. Any child in third grade math can figure out how that doesn't make any sense from a fairness point of view for teams in the East.
Just on the math alone of 16 teams for 8 playoff spots and the Wings now in the East, a playoff spot does get harder, but I predict the playoffs they will find.
I hate to put too much on the goalie, but if Carey Price can only number 880 for a full season like the last 20 games of last year, there's real trouble, but if he finds his best form then the Habs could surprise to the upside and I could be too cautious with 6th in conference and 7th seed.
Drop the puck Ref and let's see if the waters are as calm in the middle of the sea as they look right now as we set sail on 2013-14.
Happy hockey everyone!