Rabid Habs

The Forum: At The Half

Habs' Carey Price
The Montreal Canadiens have now officially passed the halfway mark of the 2014-2015 campaign, and did so with a 26-12-3 record, good for 2nd in the division and 4th in the conference, within spitting distance of 1st. 

The question this week: What are your main takeaways from the first half of the season and what do you expect in the second half?

Kyle (@kyleroussel) – Takeaways:

– Price is probably God. If he isn’t, then Subban is
– Pacioretty has the best contract in the league
– Plekanec is still criminally under appreciated
– Sekac is found money
– My fears of moving Galchenyuk to center are thankfully unfounded
– Therrien, despite his faults isn’t as stubborn in his ways as was first thought (splitting 51/67, promoting 28)
– Can move pretty much any contract if he really wants to

I expect the second half to be considerably tougher than the first half, and I expect the leadership’s mettle to be tested. The schedule gets tougher and more intense, the injury bug is bound to strike more than once, and the middling-poor analytics are bound to bite them a little bit. They’re still a playoff team, one that I think will be fairly silent at the trade deadline, yet I expect them to start game 1 of the playoffs at the Bell Centre, but if Price or Subban get hurt for anything more than 2 weeks, all bets are off.

Pierre-Alain (@PsaintLo) – After 41 games, I’m still feeling as unconfident as ever about this team. I understand that you don’t go 26-12-3 by sheer luck, but the Habs still feel like a team that could go on a 5-game losing streak for no real reason. And with the rules in place, in which most teams get at least a point every game, it seems like that would quickly turn our fantastic first half into a fading dream.

I think Subban, Galchenyuk and Beaulieu will keep getting better as the months go on. I’m confident that Price will remain in the Vezina race with his solid performances night after night. I also believe we need to rest him more in the second half in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs. I believe that our perceived depth at D needs to be used to keep our old men (Markov and Gonchar) rested, even though it is clear that Emelin, Gilbert and Weaver are almost nearly non-NHL-caliber hockey players. I believe Pacioretty will score 40 goals and will be among the top 10 goal-scorers. I believe Bergevin will make one more trade before the deadline, ala Vanek last year.

However, I have a funny feeling that this season will not end on a happy note. It just seems like we’re a very good hockey team, but I don’t feel like we are better than the other very good teams.

My hope is that we have another gear.

John (@LWOScjcasselman) – Through 41 games, a number of story lines have begun to develop, perhaps none bigger than the health of the Montreal Canadiens.

While Anaheim and Columbus lead the league in man games lost to injury (both at approximately 250 lost games), the Canadiens remain the healthiest team in the league. To further underscore this point, there hasn’t been a significant injury to any one of the team’s top players. So, in this respect, the team is where it ought to be. The other statistic that stands out to me is the team’s shootout record. This has been a very pleasant surprise and one that has helped the Habs challenge for the division lead as opposed to a wildcard position.

The concern, going forward, is that there is no guarantee that the Habs remain healthy, nor is there any guarantee that the shootout performance will continue to yield wins. Should one or either area become challenged, I fully expect the team’s record will suffer.

Through 41 games, Carey Price was the engine that propelled the good ship Canadiens. In front of Price resides a defence that’s equal parts perplexing, capable and challenged. The unit has undergone significant changes since opening night in Toronto. Only PK Subban remains in the same position. Despite these changes, the team is among the stingiest in goals against. Again, a large part of this success begins and ends with the organization’s only All-Star, however the work on the PK (also top five) by both forwards and defence is noteworthy.

It would appear that defence has come at the expense of offence. Other than Pacioretty, I can’t foresee a player eclipsing the 60-point plateau. LA won a Cup last year with only its top three scorers above 45 points. Big picture, the team needs a top six winger, however the wins and losses record in the first half doesn’t reflect this deficiency.

In closing, I give Bergevin an A+ for swinging deals to rid the team of payroll going forward. However, his biggest trick is still ahead. Will he buy, at the expense of the future, sell assets to steady the big picture, or stay the course?

I still believe this is a 5-year plan and see the team as being a year or more away. The losses to TB and PIT showcased the deficiencies and highlighted the fact that Price, PK and Max aside, the team is still lacking game breakers. A significantly improved PP, the development of Galchenyuk, the emergence of Sekac and Eller “going all playoffs again,” could push the team back into the Eastern Conference Finals, but more likely it’s one and done this postseason.

Zach (@ZachVanasse) – To reiterate the already stated and obvious: It’s all Price.

Carey is having a remarkable season and will very likely finally get that Vezina nomination.

This team is clearly playoff bound and rightfully so. I have no clue what to expect in the postseason, but I think it’s fair to say that this team could beat any team in the East in a best-of-seven series.

I’m not saying the Habs will definitely beat the Bolts, Bruins, Penguins, Rangers or Isles in a seven game series, but with Price in the blue paint, the Habs have as good a chance as anyone else on this side of the continent.

Do I think Montreal could beat Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis or Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Final? Probably not. But then again: Price.

If I’m going with my gut, my gut tells me it is going to be very difficult to get out of the Atlantic again this season. Some combination of the Penguins, Bruins and Lightning (yeah, I’m assuming Toronto is not rejoining this race) stand between the Habs and a repeat of last season’s success. That’s a tall order. But I believe in this squad.

Pacioretty is great. Subban is great. Galchenyuk is coming along very nicely (fun thing to think about: in three seasons from now, Galchenyuk will be 23 years old…), but in reality, in 2014-2015, it’s mostly all up to Carey Price.

The good news is that Carey Price is really fucking great.

 


 

Editor’s note: The Forum is a column edited by Zach Vanasse of The Montreal Bias. Vanasse and his panelists have allowed us to publish their content on RabidHabs.com.