When a Nathan Horton point shot beat Carey Price, the Canadiens' up and down 2010-2011 campaign came to an end. The Canadiens pushed the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins further then any other team; however, critics point out the Canadiens sixth place finish in the eastern conference, and the fact they were more or less a .500 team in the second half of the season.
The point is, at times the Canadiens look like a contender and at other times they look like a lottery team. Hockey fans want to know what Montreal Canadiens team will take the ice this season and if the team as well as some key players will show some much-needed consistency.
Simply put the Habs fate rides solely on one man, Carey Price. The play of the Canadiens 24-year-old goaltender will dictate whether or not this team can have success. Last season Price has outstanding, sporting a 38-28-6 record with a .923 SV% and a 2.35 GAA, Price finished in the top ten of every major goaltending category and was robbed of a Vezina nomination. There is no reason why Price can't repeat last year’s performance this season; but if he doesn't the Canadiens are in serious trouble.
Last Season the Canadiens struggled to produce offence, scoring only 2.6 goals per game, good for a spot in the bottom third of the league rankings. If the Canadiens want to have success they are going to need increased production from some integral pieces to the offensive puzzle. Scott Gomez had a mear 38 points in 80 GP last season, not good enough for his $7.5 million salary. The Habs need Gomez to solidify himself as the number two center behind Thomas Plekanec and give the Canadiens two legitimate scoring lines.
The Canadiens are also in need of someone to step up as a big scoring winger. Andrei Kostitsyn is on his last chance to fill the role for the team. Kostitsyn mirrors the Canadiens in many ways, he has lots of talent but lacks consistency. Kostitsyn is in need of a fast start as Max Pacioretty will be battling him every step of the way for
ice time as well as the addition of Erik Cole pushing him down the depth chart.
Cole will provide a much-needed size boost up front for the Habs and should also add scoring. With this Canadiens team being largely the same at forward as last year, the Canadiens will need key pieces to step up and fulfill their potential.
The strength of the Canadiens will likely still be keeping the puck out of their net. The Canadiens have a strong and deep defence corps with players capable of filling all roles. The big question mark as always with the Habs defence is the health of Andrei Markov. Markov played only seven games last season as a result of recurring knee problems. When Markov is in the lineup the Canadiens are a different and much better team, especially on the power play.
Last season also saw P.K. Subban emerge as a superstar in the league. Subban is one of the most exciting players in the NHL with a booming shot from the point and an ability to throw punishing hits as well as blazing speed. Subban scored 14 goals last season nine of which coming on the PP, Subban makes things happen when he's on the ice and is a reason for Canadiens fans to get excited.
Josh Gorges will also be returning from injury to provide a stabilizing force on the back-end. The Habs also added talented Russian Alexei Emelin to the defensive unit. Emelin is a solid puck-mover and devastating hitter that the Canadiens have been courting for some time. Overall the Canadiens should have a deep and responsible defence to protect Carey Price and Peter Budaj.
So the question remains, what Montreal Canadiens team will show up? The good thing is we begin to find out October 6th against the Toronto Maple Leafs.