It's shocking to think an entire generation of Montreal fans has grown up without seeing the Canadiens win it all, but after 18 years of waiting, the Canadiens will put all that angst to rest by claiming the 2011 Stanley Cup.
The Big Why: Many questioned Montreal's decision to trade goalie Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis in the offseason after his great postseason run, but Carey Price has rebounded from last season's struggles with tremendous aplomb. In fact, he has come into his own as one of the League's best goaltenders, tying for the League lead in wins (38) and ranking in the top 10 in goals-against average (2.35) and save percentage (.923). Price also has proven to be a workhorse the Habs can lean on for an extended run. He set a franchise mark for games played by a goalie, appearing in 72 games. He also played more than 4,200 minutes, the second-highest total in the League.
Montreal can also count on being able to attack offensively from the blue line. Mid-season acquisition James Wisniewski tied for fifth in the League in scoring for defenseman with 51 points, while a maturing P.K. Subban also provides scoring from the defense, as well as experience from his breakout postseason a year ago.
The Big Uh-Oh: While the Canadiens can expect better offense from its defense than most teams, the forwards have not pitched in at the rate many expected. With just one player, Tomas Plekanec, in the top 100 in the League in scoring and none in the top 50, there is legitimate concern that Montreal could experience a scoring drought not unlike the three consecutive shutout losses the team suffered in late March.
Final Argument: It seems almost unconscionable that the franchise with the most Stanley Cup wins in NHL history never has lifted the Cup in its current home, the Bell Centre. But this will be the year that streak finally is broken. Montreal may not be starting with home-ice advantage, but the Habs proved last spring that a low seed is no barrier when a team has a goaltender that can carry it. This will be Price's chance to do just that, and when he does, Lord Stanley once will again take up residency in Montreal after another memorable run.
I spent a long summer thinking about that playoff series and what could have been. [The Blackhawks] ended up being the Stanley Cup champions, so we know we lost to a very good team. It's tough to know how close we were, and it motivates us for this year.
— Nashville captain Shea Weber in an interview with the Predators website