Must we discuss the hockey game that was played at the Bell Centre Monday night?
What’s to discuss?
The Canadiens have OWNED Carolina this season.
The 4-1 win completed a sweep and brought the aggregate score to 11-3.
The Hurricanes are a one-line hockey team, and the Canadiens effectively contained Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty (who hit the goal post while the game was still close) and that Russian dude Jim Rutherford thinks is worth $7 million per through the 2016-’17 season.
Carey Price made 18 saves, the penalty killers held Carolina to two shots in 10 minutes of power-play time and Max Pacioretty scored twice for the first time since Feb. 27.
It will probably take 52 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
The Canadiens have 51 … which means they’ve punched a ticket to the dance, even if they go 0-12-1 between now and April 28.
And there’s a really good chance they’ll do better.
So let’s jump ahead to the merry month of May and think about how deep this team can go in the postseason.
And let’s look ahead to 3 p.m. EST on Wednesday.
Will Marc Bergevin bolster his lineup before the NHL trade deadline?
Based on what I’ve seen through 35 games, I think the Canadiens general manager should proceed with extreme caution.
The team has surprised everyone this year … probably including Bergevin and the ace hockey men – Rick Dudley, Larry Carrière and Scott Mellanby – working with him in the Canadiens’ front office. No one expected this team to be first in the Northeast Division ad second in the Eastern Conference – five points behind the Crosby-less Penguins, with a game in hand – as April begins.
The Canadiens have won 23 games – a total exceeded only by Pittsburgh, Chicago and Anaheim. Their plus-27 goal differential is third best in the league.
If the Canadiens can remain among the top four teams in the conference – and there’s every probability they will – Pittsburgh and Boston can be avoided until the latter rounds of the postseason.
If the playoffs began now, the Canadiens would meet the Devils in the opening round. The Martin F. Brodeur Jinx notwithstanding, I prefer New Jersey to either Ottawa or Toronto. There’s less of a chance of an upset against NJ than there would be in a crazy, emotional eastern Canadian series against the Senators or Leafs.
So the Canadiens are a lock to make the playoffs and a good bet to go at least one round deep and maybe more.
Is a 25th Stanley Cup a possibility? And what should Bergevin sacrifice to boost the chances of a June parade in downtown Montreal?
At the risk of having the Commentariat rise as one to suggest the Ol’ Blogger be dipped in Nutella and fed to hungry grizzly bears, I think your Montreal Canadiens are a very good hockey team that’s not quite Cup calibre.
Now I don’t want to rain on the aforementioned parade. Strange things happen in the playoffs. And if Carey Price finds his inner Jaro Halak … well, who knows what could happen?
But the best is yet to come, and I wouldn’t want any trade-deadline moves that compromise the Canadiens’ bright future.
This team will be a lot better when Alex Galchenyuk is logging more than the 7:57 ToI he had against Carolina.
Nathan Beaulieu, who played 15:17 and was plus-2, is going to be a good defenceman for a long time.
The core of the team – Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty, Brandon Prust and, yes, David Desharnais – is signed long-term to affordable contracts. Lars Eller will get an extension next season. And we can hope that P.K. Subban is re-upped before Christmas. Five years for $35 million will be the basis of the discussion – more if P.K. wins the Norris and the team goes deep.
Brendan Gallagher is playing his heart out for $870,000 in a deal that has two more seasons to run. Jarred Tinordi will be in Montreal next season.
Oh, and the goaltender is signed through 2017-’18.
And the Canadiens have six picks in the first three rounds of a vintage draft.
Bottom line: Barring a first-round loss to the Leafs, the agony of which would be assuaged by watching the whole Hockey Night in Canada studio crew perish when their pants explode, this has been a GREAT season.
Unlike Ray Shero in Pittsburgh, Peter Chiarelli in Boston, Paul Holmgren in Philadelphia – the list goes on and on – Marc Bergevin is under ZERO pressure to make a blockbuster deal.
The Canadiens’ GM is playing with house money.
So what should Bergevin do?
On L’Antichambre, Mathieu Darche made the case for prying Jason Pominville out of Buffalo. Darche considers Pominville the second most complete player in the league, after Patrice Bergeron.
Pominville would be a great addition. But there’s likely to be a bidding war.
Jaromir Jagr to play with Plekanec? Also an interesting possibility.
But given the uncertain state of Raphael Diaz’s health, the inexperience of Beaulieu and the risk of playing Andrei Markov 24 minutes a night in the postseason, the Canadiens mainly could use help on D.
Stéphane Robidas, from those nice people folks in Dallas who provided Michael Ryder?
He’d be good. But the Stars are still in the playoff hunt.
Ryan O’Byrne? Maybe … if the price were right.
That’s the key. If I’m Bergevin, I’m not discussing the Canadiens’ first-round pick, or the Calgary and Nashville choices they hold in the second round.
The GM has made two astute acquisitions: Ryder and the waiver pick-up of Jeff Halpern, who was voted First Star against Carolina.
As has not been the case in recent seasons, Canadiens fans should trust the general manager to make the right moves.
It might mean doing nothing … and that would be fine.