About last night …

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It doesn’t feel any better on the morning after.

Michael Ryder still has a shot at getting his name on the Stanley Cup.

So do Christopher Higgins and Maxim Lapierre, who’ll begin their Western Conference semi-final series tonight against Sergei Kostitsyn and the Nashville Predators. Marc-André Bergeron has a shot at being engraved in silver. So does Dominic Moore.

It’s only April 28. Some guys will be playing hockey into June.

But not in Montreal.

The players will be cleaning out their lockers at Brossard and scattering to the winds today. Pierre Gauthier and Jacques Martin will be offering their assessments of the season that Nathan Horton ended last night.

Gauthier is on record as saying his goal as general manager is to secure the team a spot in the top third of a very competitive NHL.

That didn’t happen this season.

The Canadiens squeaked into the NHL’s top half. They finished 14th overall with 96 points – but made the playoffs without the final-night psychodrama to which fans have become accustomed.

With a brilliant season by Carey Price, who started 70 regular-season games, the Canadiens tied New Jersey for eighth in the league in goals-against at 209.

But their 216 goals-for were two fewer than Toronto, one more than Columbus and placed the Canadiens 24th in league scoring.

That showed in the playoffs.

Michael Cammalleri holds a temporary lead in postseason scoring with 10 points (three goals and seven assists). The team’s next best scorer against Boston was Tomas Plekanec, tied with six others at two goals, three assists. Then it’s all the way down to P.K. Subban at 64th (two goals, two assists).

Gauthier is going to have a busy off-season.

The Canadiens have nine players signed for 2011-’12: Price, Cammalleri, Subban, Plekanec, Scott Gomez (INSERT EXPRESSION OF OUTRAGE HERE), Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Jaroslav Spacek and Lars Eller.

According to CapGeek calculations, Gauthier has $25.3 million in cap space.

(Just as a comparison, the Leafs have 14 players under contract and $21.2 million to spend.)

The list of unsigned players is topped by Andrei Markov, who will be an unrestricted free agent if the Canadiens don’t sign him by July 1. Other potential UFAs are Roman Hamrlik, Hal Gill, James Wisniewski, Brent Sopel, Paul Mara, Jeff Halpern, Mathieu Darche and Alex Auld.

Josh Gorges is a Restricted Free Agent, as are Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot. The RFA list includes Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Ryan White, Tom Pyatt, Yannick Weber and Alexandre Picard.

Gauthier has to brush off his calculator, sharpen his pencil and make some difficult decisions – with the goal of keeping your Montreal Canadiens competitive.

It won’t be easy, not in the ruthlessly Darwinian National Hockey League.

The Commentariat probably can offer the general manager some helpful advice.

Photo by Adam Hunger of Reuters

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