For this edition I'm taking the liberty of making the first of my top five Cup eligible Eastern and Western Conference picks for the season. My plan is to write about 10 teams over the next 10 days. So hopefully over that span, many a team will make trades that shall render this article completely irrelevant.
Whenever I judge a hockey team I start from the net out. As usual, the East has it's share of incredible goalies (Brodeur, Lundqvist, Miller...) yet few teams ever seem to actually play defense, aggravating fantasy hockey managers everywhere who need their keepers to stop posting 6.50 goals against averages every third game. The reason for this is that almost all of the great defensemen reside in the Western Conference. Good defensemen in good defensive systems equals less shots on goal. And less shots on goal makes for happier, healthier goalies.
Think about it:
Pronger, Niedermayer, Lidstrom, Chelios, Schneider, Rafalski...and that's just the flippin' Red Wings and Ducks!
Due to this fact it somewhat bothers me that two of the last three Cup winners have come from the East. The way I see it, the cannibalistic nature of the playoffs in the west enabled Tampa and Carolina to win brutal 7-game series' against hot lower-echelon teams.
This years nominee at the #5 spot for "2008 Hot Semi-competent Team that Screws up My Playoff Pool"
I once found a video on youtube made by a French Canadian kid of him playing what appeared to be NHL 06, complete with home made graphics celebrating the accomplishments of different players as they scored. It had all the excitement of watching some kid play video hockey, complete with wanting to shove him out of the way and rip the controller from his hands simply so Marty St. Louis would stop skating in circles.
-at one point you see a little animated Hab sprintin' round the ol video ice before charging to the net and scoring. Then the screen goes black and you read:
Guillaume Latendresse FIRST GOAL FOR MONTREAL!!!
At the time the real Guillaume had yet to score an actual goal, and who would have thought that Guillaume would score his first goal not in reality, but in the wonderful world of some kids tv in Montreal. Huzzah!
This is how I feel about Montreal. I've never seen the Habs in person, and considering how the league likes to screw with the schedule I may never see them in person. They live in my tv and are the team that used to be good until they traded away Patrick Roy.
Despite those dark days of over 10 years ago they have somewhat improved, and with a few breaks, solid goaltending from Huet, and the Rangers' wide selection of incompetent defensemen, the Habs could make a run. This year the Habs have managed to not consistently lose thanks to the efforts of surprise players like Komisarek, Plekanec, Alex Kovalev, and parity.
That said Montreal can definitely play a feisty game, and when Carey Price rounds into shape they may have a formidable young team in the future.
Next up, the #5 team in the West.