Expectations are always high in Montreal, even though the Canadiens haven’t won the Stanley Cup in 20 years.
More than any team in the NHL, the Habs are blessed and cursed with a remarkable history. The 24 Cup banners hanging from the Bell Centre rafters serve as a constant reminder of greatness that recent teams have not been able to live up to. Last year’s Habs team had a terrific regular season, finishing second in the East, but many felt that was an aberration of the shortened schedule. They may have been proven right when the Habs lasted just five games against the ‘underdog’ Ottawa Senators in the first round.
Making it to the playoffs hasn’t been a sure thing in Montreal in recent years, and a lot needs to go right for the Canadiens to do so again this year.
Odds To Win Stanley Cup: 20/1
Key #1: Carey Price must shine
There’s no arguing that Carey Price is one of the most talented goaltenders in the NHL. But he has not been able to show that consistently over a whole season. He has shown flashes of brilliance that put him at the elite level, but he has also struggled with soft goals and poor performances. If the Canadiens are to win that elusive 25th Cup, they need Price to remove all doubt as to his elite status. Nothing less than a Vezina Trophy-worthy performance will do. The Habs have been quite patient with Price over the last few years, and it’s time for him to reward them with proof that their faith has not been misplaced.
Key #2: P.K. Subban needs to cement his status as a top defender
There was a time when it seemed P.K. Subban may not even play last year. He missed the first handful of games due to a contract dispute, but he ultimately signed a short ‘bridge’ contract that will make him a free agent this summer. The Habs may wish they had locked him up long term after his Norris Trophy winning season, as he’ll be demanding big bucks and big term, especially if he can duplicate that success this year. On the ice, he doesn’t need to win another Norris, but he does need to prove that he truly is one of the game’s best defenders. Continued strong play in both ends and further development of his dangerous offensive skills would go a long way towards winning the Cup.
Key #3: Scorers must score
For a team that once boasted the best scorers in the league, the Habs sure do have a hard time putting the puck in the net. It’s been a long time since the Canadiens have had a top scorer on their team, with the team’s leader usually being well behind the pace of the Art Ross winners. They need their high priced scorers to rack up the points, if not at a point a game clip, then close.
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