We may not be treated again to the now-banished Triple Low Five, but Price and Subban remain the dynamic duo for the Canadiens. - Richard Wolowicz
The Habs arrive in Florida smarting from a 6-0 beat-down at the hands of the Leafs in Montreal Saturday. That loss aside, the Canadiens are 6-4-1, Carey Price has been solid and P.K. Subban is back and beginning to work his magic on the ice. I checked in with Eyes on the Prize managing editor Andrew Berkshire yesterday to get his read on the state of the club, confidence in young prospects in the fold, and thoughts on re-alignment adding two teams from the Sunshine State to the Northeast Division.
1. Reading up at Habs Eyes on the Prize Monday morning, it seemed there is not much for Canadiens fans to feel good about following that debacle Saturday night at the Bell Centre. Montreal sits fourth in the Northeast today, but still in the playoff mix at 7th in the East.
We could also dismiss the game as a unfortunate series of bad luck and poor choices, easily reversible. What is your read: did the loss to the Maple Leafs reveal serious problems with this club, or has there been enough promise in the Habs' 6-4-1 start that you anticipate they'll recover quickly and be solid in the games ahead?
There's no game where you learn less about your team than from a blowout. They happen to everyone, and they're aberrations, not indicative of much. The Canadiens have been excellent in 9 of 11 games this year, and barring injury should continue to be a very good team. That said, some changes need to be made. P.K. Subban is being wasted on a pairing with Francis Bouillon, for example.
2. Montreal has several young players developing at the NHL level this season who give me the sense that the future is bright for the team. Already highly-regarded, P.K. Subban (23) and Carey Price (25) have yet to hit their prime. Then let's factor in Max Pacioretty (24), Lars Eller (23), and the new rookie duo of Brendan Gallagher (20) and Alex Galchenyuk (18). How good are these kids? Do you believe that they are the building blocks to keep the Habs in contention for a while, or is there a game-changing "franchise player" or two (of the caliber of Kovalchuk, Spezza, Giroux or Stamkos-St.Louis, Richards-Nash) still needed to bring this team to the next level, and stay there?
We already know that there are two players in that group that are franchise player calibre. Subban is an elite defenseman in the NHL, especially on the defensive side of the puck, and Price is one of the best goaltenders in the game, if not the best.
Galchenyuk could get to that point, but it's best not to count any eggs before they hatch. For right now, the Canadiens have an extremely promising young core that includes two franchise players at marquee positions.
3) We know that realignment of the League is coming this summer; it's apparently back on the table this month. Last year, the proposed four-conference structure took the current Northeast Division and added the two teams from Florida, both of which Montreal happens to be playing this week.
What did you think of that realignment proposal? It will be a significant change for the Panthers and Lightning, but given the "storied history" of the Canadiens, how will the fans and media in Quebec react to have two Sunbelt teams vying for same conference title?
I'm sure there will be a large group of ornery people who think it's an insult, but if anything I would say what matters most is the players. I can't see the Habs' players being overly upset that they'll have an extra trip or two down to Florida in the winter.
Another factor that's positive in that re-alignment proposal is all the retired Quebec natives in that area. Habs games are always a big deal for the Lightning and Panthers, which will hopefully help stimulate some extra growth for the sport in those areas.
There may not be any rivalry with Tampa or Florida for the Canadiens, but I can't exactly say I'd be upset to see an extra game with Stamkos at the Bell Centre. It sure beats Buffalo.