The first round was full of surprises, both good and bad as some players thrived while others struggled. This has resulted in quite a few players being thought of as wildcards as the Habs prepare to take on Tampa Bay. Who, or what, do our writers think is Montreal’s biggest Round 2 wildcard?
Brian La Rose: The Habs managed to win the first round despite forgetting how to score in the final half of the series. If that carries over to Round 2, they’re toast. That means the wildcard has to be the offence which was led all season by Max Pacioretty.
Pacioretty slowly improved as the series against the Sens progressed although many would agree he wasn’t at his best even by the end. If he’s back to full form after this lengthy break between series, the top six will at least have a couple of different options capable of scoring (assuming Brendan Gallagher keeps up his strong play). If Pacioretty still isn’t quite right though, the offensive drought may very well continue which would not bode well for Montreal’s chances.
Alex Létourneau: Andrei Markov – I imagine this will be one of the popular choices, along with the power play, or lack thereof. Maybe the two have a little something to do with each other. The real issue for me has been Markov’s spectacular regression during the first round of the playoffs. It’s near unthinkable. Going into the second round, I have no idea which Markov will show up. Will it be the intelligent defender who tweaked his game following a series of debilitating knee injuries and prolonged his career? Or will it be the one who opened Ottawa’s account with an own goal and led all Canadiens players with 11 turnovers?
For a guy that challenges P.K. Subban’s total ice time, Markov needs to rediscover his form. If he’s incapable of playing at the level the organization, and its fan base, expects from him, Montreal will have some troubles as the playoffs progressed. It simply looked like there was an impostor wearing #79 for six games.
Paul MacLeod: To me the biggest wildcard is Andrei Markov. His series against the Senators fluctuated from the mediocre to the abysmal, starting with an own goal and ending with him on the bench at the end of the series clinching Game 6. Is Markov hurt? Is he mentally burnt out? Or is he merely in need of a rest after logging hard minutes all year? I expect the wily vet to elevate his game after some much needed rest. Montreal with a resurgent Markov is dangerous…..Montreal with a Markov like he was in Round 1 is in danger.
Norm Szcyrek: The Habs “wildcard” will be Alex Galchenyuk. His offensive talent is significant, and his upside is still huge. He did manage an overtime winning goal in the first round against Ottawa, but he was relatively silent otherwise. Shift after shift, I see a pretty consistent effort but the results are not coming forward in terms of points or even scoring attempts.
Perhaps he feels he’s too stifled in coach Therrien’s defensive, chip and chase system which affects his offensive creativity? Perhaps he would prefer to be moved back to his natural center position? Perhaps I’m being too hard on him or expecting too much since he did score 20 goals and 46 points this season, his best as a 21 year old, 3rd year player? Regardless, I believe he needs to study and learn the true meaning of the legendary Canadiens motto which adorned the locker room wall in the Montreal Forum: “To you from failing hands we throw. The torch; be yours to hold it high”.