Well, that was a helluva ride. Given that they were the 16th seed, rising to the top four is well beyond anyone's expectations. Still, there is room to improve and the deep run into the playoffs exposed this team's strengths and weaknesses.
To rate the individual pieces, we don't need to go into the tangible qualities of speed, skill and size. We know the Habs need size. But the playoffs exposes those intangibles that aren't so readily seen, especially heart, grit and determination. And here the Habs had some players who stepped it up in that department, some who stayed level with their regular season play, and others who looked completely lost:
The Lost: Pouliot, A. Kostitsyn and Plekanec.
With three shutouts against a third-string goalie, the top six forwards should have been more present. But these three especially somehow couldn't get it done. Granted, they were thrown against some of the better forwards and defensive pairings, but that didn't stop Gionta and Cammalleri from lighting it up.
The Level: Subban, Markov, O'Byrne, Bergeron, Spacek, Darche, Moen, Gomez, Moore, Price and Hamrlik.
Hamrlik almost ended up in the Lost category, given how slow he looked esp on every one of the shorthanded goals the Habs gave up. But his +4 night in their lone win against the Flyers makes up for those.
Bergeron could have gone either way. As a PP specialist, he was a flameout. Still, this was due at least in part to the opposition's knowledge that they had to get high in his shooting lane. So he didn't have many opportunities. And with the injury to Markov, and the general lack of scoring, he had to play a lot at even strength -- and a league worst plus/minus to show for it.
Moore and Moen provided some timely goals on occasion. But Moore was brought in for his faceoff prowess, and ended up a team worst 41%. Moen finished second on the team in hitting, but his weren't of intimidating kind that the team leader (Lapierre) seemed to provide.
The Lionhearted: Gill, Gorges, Cammalleri, Gionta, Pyatt, Lapierre and Halak
Gill and Gorges shut down the world's best scorers night in and night out. Gionta and Cammalleri accounted for almost half the Habs' goals. Pyatt and Lapierre provided secondary scoring, speed, defense, hitting, and energy. And if enough of the rest of the team played like these guys, we would be talking about Halak as Conn Smythe trophy winner.
It's unfortunate that more didn't step up their game. But getting that far into the playoffs can be a rich learning experience for a fairly young team. Which bodes well for next year.