The Hurricanes finish up a Canadian sojourn tonight in Montreal, and they look for their first win of the season in their final crack at the Canadiens this year. The Habs have been in first place in the Northeast Division every day since February 18, and they've had their hands full with the Boston Bruins who are right on their heels in one heck of a dogfight.
To give us some insight into what's made the Habs successful this year in defending their ground at the top of the division, we welcome back Andrew Berkshire of Eyes On The Prize to the hot seat for another edition of Three Questions.
- What's been the most surprising and/or unexpected difference in Michel Therrien this time around as opposed to his previous turn behind the Habs' bench?
The most easily noticeable thing is his style has improved. Not even talking his coaching style, but his dressing style. He used to have some of the ugliest getups in the league (ed. note: remember that lovely mustard number from the Molson Miracle?), but now he looks pretty nicely done up every night. Another noticeable change is that he's having fun. Part of that is the team winning, but he seems like he doesn't have the weight of the world on him like when he was a rookie coach.
When Therrien was last coach, I wasn't exactly a hockey analyst, so I can't speak to changes in his system specifically, but he seems to be much more focused on possession than his previous systems.
- Tomas Kaberle - best defenseman to ever be put on waivers, or one of the best defensemen to ever be put on waivers?
I still maintain that a Kaberle is a lot better than people think, and he could probably help a few teams, but that contract...
Here's the real #2: Do the Habs have what it takes to hold off the Bruins for the division title without acquiring reinforcements at the trade deadline, or will they go and pick someone up to maintain their position?
If the Canadiens were healthy right now, or even just had Raphael Diaz back, I'd be very confident in saying they can take the Northeast without adding anyone. It's still possible they can do it of course, but it's a lot more difficult to do with the necessary over-reliance on their top 4. P.K. Subban has no trouble playing 30 minutes a night if he needs to, but Andrei Markov can't do it on the regular.
Then again the Bruins' defense corps outside of Chara is pretty awful so maybe my worries are for naught. Callups like Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu have fit right in and excelled too; these Habs are deep.
- Is there one team, or a specific style of play, that the Habs would like to avoid matching up with in the first round of the playoffs? If not, what would be the best possible matchup?
They've had trouble against the free wheeling Islanders this season, so if they make it in I'm sure the Habs would like to avoid it, but quite honestly there isn't a team in the East that looks like they would definitely beat the Canadiens. That's not to say that the Habs are guaranteed to beat anyone, but the way this team has played, no one looks unbeatable.