Disecting the Habs First Round Series

That was a tough pill to swallow. The Canadiens came out flat footed in game seven and they paid for it.

That was kind of a recurring theme throughout this series. The winner ended up being the team that made fewer mistakes.

The Habs simply dropped the ball.

Up 2-0 and heading home, the Habs didn’t show up to play in game three. In game four, they had the lead on three separate occasions and failed to play proper defense on all three of those occasions.

In game seven, the Habs were simply beaten to the puck too often.

Credit to Claude Julien, who made a crucial adjustment. It was evident early in the game that he had his defensemen pinching in, preventing the puck from exiting the zone. Boston’s rushes were constantly being prolonged by the efforts of Seidenberg and Chara keeping the puck in the Canadiens end.

There’s no use dwelling on the high stick and spear that occurred on Boston’s third goal. The Habs never should have let this series get to seven games in the first place.

The Habs can take a lot from this series, both positive and negative.

On the negative side, this team needs more scoring options. A healthy Max Pacioretty would have helped, but that simply isn’t enough. Andrei Kostitsyn is a talented player but I’m not convinced he should be relied upon as a top line scorer.

Benoit Pouliot has to go. He’s ineffective or lazy. Either way, he’s no use to this team.

He could probably get his 20-25 goals on a third scoring line with Lars Eller. The Habs will need a guy who they can rely on to net 25-30 goals on a more consistent basis. There aren’t many wingers coming up the pipe, so they’ll likely have to look to free agency to fill that void.

This team was also hurt by its lack of face-off ability, especially in game seven. The Habs need to find a guy who they can count on to take key defensive zone draws. Jeff Halpern was supposed to be that guy, but too often in this series they went away from him.

On the defensive end, this team is too slow. Having Gill, Hamrlik, Spacek, and Sopel all playing significant minutes seriously hurt this team.

This is where all the injuries really showed. Imagine this defense corps with Markov and Gorges instead of Sopel and Spacek. The difference would have been night and day.

On the positive side, the young guys really emerged and offered some hope for the future.

Lars Eller seems to have grown up before our very eyes. He showed great hands, a good hockey sense, a willingness to play a physical game, and didn’t take any stupid penalties.

David Desharnais looks like he’s capable of playing top six minutes. His speed is extremely difficult for anyone to contain and he showed some impressive creativity.

Yannick Weber also looked good in the two games he played. He’s underrated defensively and has a cannon for a shot. He could be the team’s next Mark Streit.

Finally, what more can be said about Subban? He’s emerged as one of the top 30 defensemen in the league. His offensive skills have grown by leaps and bound since the start of the year, and playing with Gill has given him a strong sense of defensive responsibility.

Mike Cammalleri has proven that last year was no fluke. He’s a monster in the playoffs and will serve the team well down the road.

Brian Gionta was dangerous throughout the entire series. I can only imagine how successful his line would have been if Pacioretty were healthy.

Coaching was also strong. Jacques Martin got the most he could out of a team that was lacking depth. His system is the only thing that kept this team afloat.

It’s going to be a busy off-season for Pierre Gauthier. Most of the defense corps is going to be UFA while some significant holes need to be filled up front.

Check in later this week for a detailed (unofficial) off-season plan for the Habs.

Until then, enjoy the golf season.

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