Now that teams are advancing towards the Stanley Cup Finals, we'll review the seasons of teams as they're eliminated from the playoffs. Obviously, the last team reviewed will be the one that wins the Cup.
Now the next team to be eliminated from the playoffs: Montreal Canadiens
Our prediction: We thought the Montreal Canadiens were a decent playoff team with the potential to go deep (and even had them finishing first in the Atlantic Division.) Once they advanced to the playoffs, we figured they'd defeat the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. In absence of having made official prediction prior to the start of the Conference Semifinals, we would've figured that the Canadiens had a bit more swagger in the crease and on the blueline, thus picking them over the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
The truth: The Canadiens did in fact finish first in the Atlantic Division and also dispatched the Senators in six games. Once they got to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, however, the Lightning managed to outscore them on most nights and sent Montreal home after six games.
So what was good?: When you have, arguably, the best goaltender and best defenseman in the Eastern Conference, than your team should be playoff-bound. As such, Carey Price was remarkable during the season while PK Subban is certainly living up to his contractual obligations as the highest-paid the player on the team. Subban was well-complimented by veteran defender Andrei Markov, who put up 50 points over 80 games during the regular season. The team also enjoyed regular offensive contributions from their forwards as well: Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec led the charge with campaigns in excess of 60 points (Pacioretty almost hit 70) while David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, and Alex Galchenyuk were each solid contributors who could be counted on for secondary point production. Further, supplimental point production wasn't that hard to come by, as Dale Weise, Lars Eller, and PA Parenteau were capable of providing the necessary point production to complement the top forwards (and top-pairing defenders.) Factor in a better than average group of checking forwards and you have a formula for success (as far as making the playoffs goes.)
So what happened?: Price is a fantastic goaltender, but he cannot be expected to score goals. That said, any semblance of Montreal's offense left them once the playoffs started (frankly, they were fortunate to have gone over Ottawa with how little offense they produced.) Out of all of the people Montreal relied on during the regular season to score, only two - Subban and Pacioretty - managed to be a regular contributor who could put up top-six point production. Gallagher? 5 points in 12 games. Plekanec and Galchenyuk? 4 points in 12 games. Desharnais? 3 points in 11 games. Perhaps the most disappointing was Markov, who only mustered two points during the entire playoff campaign. And while Parenteau battled injury issues during the season, his decline in production can't help but be construed as a red flag that he's starting to decline as a player.
So what's next?: As far as player personnel goes, the team has little over $10M to use towards retaining Galchenyuk, Brian Flynn, and young defender Nathan Beaulieu while also having to pick up two depth forwards and two depth defenders (though the team should make an effort to retain Torrey Mitchell, the trio of Manny Malhotra, Jeff Petry, and Sergi Gonchar will likely not be retained in the off-season.) Otherwise, their bed is made as far as their "key" players are concerned and as far as the young ones are concerned, may simply need more time to grow. As far as coaching personnel goes, Michel Therrien's future with the team is up in the air. If the Habs can end up winners in the Mike Babcock sweepstakes, Therrien will be sent packing after three seasons with the club.