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Your! Call: What is the true identity of the 2013 Canadiens?

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Shane McNeil, TSN.ca Staff
5/10/2013 1:32:38 PM
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The Montreal Canadiens' 2012-13 season came to an end Thursday night with a lopsided 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

The loss completed Ottawa's opening round series victory and sent the Northeast Division-winning Habs to the dressing room to pack after just five games.

But short playoffs aside, the Canadiens performed well above expectations this year, going from worst to first in the division and second overall in the Eastern Conference. The team now transitions into an off-season much different from last spring - which saw a front office overhaul, several contract resolutions and a massive Draft Day haul.

But before any works gets done to prepare for next season, the team and its fans are left to determine what the true identity of the 2012-13 Canadiens was.

The Canadiens stormed out of the gate once the lockout ended, posting a 13-4-3 record through the first two months of the season and all but monopolizing first place in the Northeast.

That torrid pace would continue up until the April 3 trade deadline, with the team sitting at 23-7-5, aided largely by a 19-game stretch that saw the Habs drop just one game in regulation.

The Canadiens were also enjoying eye-opening campaigns from rookie sensation Alex Galchenyuk, eventual Calder nominee Brendan Gallagher and soon-to-be Norris nominee P.K. Subban.

Carey Price was enjoying another quality season up until April with a .914 save percentage and a 2.30 goals against average, while Brandon Prust was giving the team long-needed toughness and edge and Andrei Markov stayed healthy for the entire 48-game season.

Once April began, however, the team's limp towards the postseason would begin.

The team doubled its loss total for the season, dropping seven of its last 13 games (including losses to underperforming clubs like Philadelphia and New Jersey). The Canadiens also turned to Peter Budaj down the stretch to help to pick things up for a struggling Price, including a start in the team's final tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs with the division title hanging in the balance.

Still, the Habs overall performance was good enough to earn them the second seed in the Eastern Conference and avoid a potentially worse first-round matchup with the Leafs or Boston Bruins. But once the postseason started, more problems emerged.

The Habs threw 50 shots at Craig Anderson in Game 1, but fell to the Senators 4-2 in a game that saw them lose Lars Eller after a hit from Sens defenceman Eric Gryba. They would rebound to win an emotional Game 2 by a score of 3-1. But after that, things got messy.

A 6-1 beating in Game 3 saw the head coach Michel Therrien and his team angrier at a Paul MacLean time-out than at the series deficit. Price went down at the end of regulation in Game 4 and Budaj was beaten on the first shot into overtime. And the Canadiens - without Eller, Price, Prust, captain Brian Gionta, fourth line agitator Ryan White and a banged up Max Pacioretty (who played with a separated shoulder suffered in Game 1) were put down for good with another 6-1 loss on Thursday in front of a home crowd.

The Habs were beaten by another team with low expectations in 2013, with many having written off the Senators after losing Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Anderson to long-term injuries earlier in the year.

The Canadiens could have been playing over their heads in the early going. It could have only been a matter of time before the team's hot start leveled off into a disappointing finish.

Or the 2012-13 squad could simply have run into a more determined opponent in the first round and just couldn't cope with their rash of injuries.

So which team is the true identity of this season's Habs?

As always, it's Your! Call.

P.K. Subban Andrei Markov (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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