BY Bryan Willey - Habsaddict.com (@bryanwilley78)
So this morning my wife wakes up and overhears the score of the Habs-Sens game last night and upon hearing the outcome quickly turns to me and asks if I am upset.
I cannot speak for all Habs fans with this, but without hesitation I told her, “No”.
Perhaps it is just my own opinion, but I like to consider myself a knowledgeable hockey fan without bias and with realistic expectations. I am not one of those band wagon fans who come to life in the playoffs but rather just a regular guy who bleeds Bleu Blanc Rouge, 365 days a year.
My expectations, you might ask, were realistic yet disappointing as I expected a first round exit in what I thought would be a 6 game series.
This prediction was made without even knowing of the injuries to Max Pacioretty, Brian Gionta and Brandon Prust or that Lars Eller would be lost for the playoffs with his devastating injury of game 1.
You see, there is an old adage in hockey that you need to learn how to lose before you can learn how to win.
Perhaps it is nothing but BS but if you take a look at recent victors of Lord Stanley’s Cup and you’d see a Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks team, to name but two that needed to face playoff disappointment before ultimately hoisting the cup. With such a history why would I expect the Canadiens to be different?
Yes we finished second in the Eastern Conference but this team has way too deficiencies at this stage which need to be improved upon before truly making the next step.
First let’s discuss experience.
In Game 4 of the first round of the 2013 playoffs our lineup consisted of Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Gabriel Dumont, Jarred Tinordi, Max Pacioretty, and Raphael Diaz who were all disputing their first playoff series.
Add these names to the likes of Ryan White, Rene Bourque, Lars Eller, Colby Armstrong and David Desharnais who are all surprisingly only playing in their 2nd career playoff series.
Think about that for a second. 11 players who suited up for this team in the past 4 games were either playing in their first or second playoff series in their career.
Does this sound like the make-up of a team destined for success this time around?
Then let’s talk about our D-core.
Our top five defensemen are currently Francis Bouillon, Andrei Markov, PK Subban, Raphael Diaz and Josh Gorges.
Now I do not know about you but when I see this group I see some experience and some very good movers but I also see a list where four of the five players are 6 feet or smaller. With only Gorges coming in at 6’1.
I also see a gaping hole with the loss of the 6’3, 220 lbs. Alexei Emelin. There were numerous complaints about him this season but Alexei Emelin I might point out is our biggest, meanest, hardest hitting and one of the leading shots blockers.
Did fans really expect to see a level of success in a playoff battle of attrition missing this key element?
We need to be realistic here guys and girls, the Montreal Canadiens are on the right track but this was not our year. We cannot let the success of the regular season blind us, because we are not ready to make that next step, yet.
However as each of you read this piece, I don’t want you to leave with a sense of ill will or negativity because this team is on the verge of something bigger.
Yes we are down 3-1 and yes I still believe that this team will put up a fight for game 6 and maybe even game 7 but my optimism is what will be in 2013-14.
I salivate at the thought of a blue line patrolled by Jarred Tinordi, PK Subban, Alexei Emelin, Nathan Beaulieu et al.
I drool as I envision a more experienced Galchenyuk, Eller and Gallagher or a playoff battle with a healthy Prust, Pacioretty or the Emelin #Boom.
Be wary Eastern Conference, the Habs are coming !!!