BOSTON (CBS) – With the regular season right around the corner, it’s time to take a look at the top Eastern Conference teams that will give your Boston Bruins their fair share of difficulties this year.
The Tampa Bay Lightning started the list off. Next, we move on to some familiar foes.
Matter of fact, when you think of the word headache, chances are this next team comes to mind. You can also think of words like flopping, diving and whining. Any one of those should bring up images of the good ol’ Montreal Canadiens.
Yes, they’re annoying. Yes, watching them flop over all over the ice makes you want to lose your mind. But truth is, they’re a good team. So without further ado, and in a reluctant manner, I bring you three reasons why Montreal will be a force this season.
1. Carey Price
Over the past three seasons, as we watched all of the fighting and emotions out on the ice, we may have overlooked one small factor, Carey Price becoming a top goalie in the NHL. We all knew that he was always pretty good but the truth is that he’s been getting better. In terms of save percentages, in 2008 he had a .905 SV%, in 2009 it went up to a .912 SV% and last year it jumped to a .923 SV%. With the defense revamped this year, getting pucks in the net may prove to be harder than the Bruins thought.
Oh yeah, Price is only 24 years old, that’s 13 years younger than the Bruins starting goaltender.
2. Defense Defense Defense
Both Andrei Markov, the power play guru, and Josh Gorges, the penalty-killing monster, were out last season due to reconstructive knee surgeries. Well, they’re back and unless there’s some rust on those skates, they will be a factor.
One good defense line you say. Who cares? I do. Because even if Markov and Gorges prove to be a bit off, there is still the pairing of Hal Gill and everyone’s favorite stand up guy, PK Subban. PK is good and he’s young. He consistently proves to be a nuisance with his over-the-top acting talent but can be a factor when it counts. Last year he had a total of 14 goals and 26 assists.
With two strong defensive lines, the Bruins will need to grind out some of these wins.
3. Sizing Up
Over the summer, the Canadiens went out and signed Carolina’s power forward, Erick Cole, to a 4-year, $18 million deal. At 6-2 and weighing in at 205 pounds, Cole can provide the Canadiens with some size. It’s not a lot but if you add skill on top of everything, you have 20+ goal scorer on your hands.
The Habs will be good this season but the fact is they remain beatable. Most of their off-season money went to signing Carey Price, which limited their room for improvement. With the loss of James Wisniewski, Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Halprin, there may be some chemistry issues at the start of the season.
Finally, with both Gorges and Markov coming off of knee surgery, there’s still a chance that the defense will be rusty.
The Bruins are set to face their hated rivals a total of eight times this season, which will definitely make for some great hockey.
Coming Friday: Pittsburgh Penguins
Follow Mark Feldman on Twitter @mfsports21