The last placed team in the NHL when it came to playoff teams; knocking off the top-two Eastern Conference favorites, which had the NHL's top-two marketed players, making a folk hero out of the winner of their goalie dilemma and all from a team who many didn't think had enough to make the playoffs. The Canadiens have a lot to be proud of, even if they didn't get to where they wanted to be.
The defense was the main story of success for the Habs, who had one of the best shot-blockers in the league in Hal Gill in their line-up, who leads the playoffs with 68 blocked shots throughout the playoffs thus far. He is followed by Josh Gorges, who played well enough to have a regular spot and prominent role in next season. With PK Subban emerging, the offensive weight should be off the oft-injured Andrei Markov and relieve Marc-Andre Bergeron of his duties. Roman Hamrlik was less than stellar and could be a candidate to be bought out for Ryan O'Byrne to get more time next season. Moving forward, you'll probably see the like of Yannick Weber and Mathieu Carle get call ups and more time, but it'll usher in the new phase of Habs defense.
The goaltending debate is over, with Jaroslav Halak taking over the top spot from Carey Price. Halak will probably get a nice hefty offer from the Habs. They would be dumb not to offer him a nice contract after what he did for them in the playoffs and regular season; and should do it before offer sheets come rolling in. The bigger issues is what to do with Carey Pirce. Do they try to make him an offer knowing he'll be the back-up or try to get something back from trading his rights. I've mentioned before about what would have happened with Price in a different market, which could happen come this summer-- though I bet the Habs will try to ration with him; though it could fall on deaf ears.
Up front, the Habs will focus on getting Tomas Plekanec re-signed, especially since he was the top guy for the Habs in the regular season. Plekanec should command an affordable price tag, but with 10 forward locked up to over $25M, the Havs may not be able to rationalize a siging to break the bank. Luckily for Bob Gainey, the big three that he got in the summer and underperformed in the regular season stepped it up in the playoffs to save whatever legacy as GM that he had. With four prominent RFAs out there, the odds are they'll have to make a choice quickly on what to do. The Kostitsyns may be on their way out of the country, which would save a bit of money for the Habs since Andrei is under contract for another year, with Sergei a RFA this year. There's going to have to be a lot of shuffling and penny-pinching in order to fill-out the rest of the forwards.
While they overachieved, they made a city come alive. They were able to revitalize a great hockey city and showed that the underdog can still learn new tricks. Jacques Martin did have a lot of detractors, but he did enough to motivate his team to the Conference finals. Yet, at the same time-- how much was that because of his coaching or his players trying to cover for him?? That may never be revealed, but the Habs did a lot for their city and franchise in how they were able to come from the lowest point to almost the pinnacle. The real question is can they do it all again next year....