Craig Custance chats with rival scouts and players to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal is the ultimate example of how much impact a complete culture change inside an organization can have. The Habs were so good for most of this season that we've almost forgotten that this is just the first year under new coach Michel Therrien and general manager Marc Bergevin.
"The mentality changed," said defenseman Josh Gorges. "We weren't going to expect anything but our best from the top down."
And with that complete turnaround comes new expectations. When the season began, a trip to the playoffs would have sounded like a grand overachievement for a team that was drafting No. 3 last June. Now, the players hope it's just the start.
"You take it in steps," Gorges said. "Throughout the regular season our goal was to get ourselves in the playoffs. Once you get there, you reset your goals. We're not going to be satisfied with just getting in and losing out in the first round. ... Once you get to the playoffs, the end goal for everybody is the same. Anything short of that, really, is a disappointment."
KEY STRENGTH: "They kind of have a swarm mentality," said an Eastern Conference goalie. "They're very dedicated to chipping pucks in. They'll chip the puck in, get on the forecheck, cycle it, wear you down and then get scoring chances and opportunities like that."
They're also good away from the puck.
"They'll make a pass and beat a guy from the wall to the net," said the goalie. "That's where they'll get a lot of deflections, rebounds and just bang away at it. They beat teams back to the front of the net with their speed."
That movement and speed is what a division rival defenseman said makes them so tough to play against.