Break it down!
"In the world of 5-on-5 hockey, the 'Canes should own the momentum. If it comes to a lot of special teams play, the Habs are decidedly better on the PP (5th in the league-'Canes were 17th)."
This comment by Cason got me thinking about special teams. Plus, I really should have a go at a more serious analysis of this series.
Forwards: Ballyhooed shutdown man Rod Brind'amour has more goals (30), points (70), and PPGs (19) than any Hab. He's fourth in scoring for the 'Canes. Even without Erik Cole (he's the straw that stirs the mint julep) the edge goes to Carolina. It's not even close.
Defense: Montreal's blueliners are bigger names and play a higher 'event' game. You notice them more, and that's not always a good thing. The 'Canes are truly a defense by committee. The best thing I can say about them is that Laviolette's decision to dress seven regularly has been a stroke of genius. Edge to Montreal, if they can stay out of penalty trouble.
Goaltending: I have no idea. The most important position and the hardest to gauge.
Now, in this topsy-turvy post-modern world, do labels like 'forward' and 'defense' really matter? Quality is subjective and there is no absolute truth. Let's try to break things down by game situation instead.
Even strength: 'Canes are +10 on the season. Habs are -5.
back on Feb. 8. At the time, the Habs were being called for 15.6 minutes per game and their opponents 13.4 min/g. In the 28 games since, the Habs have committed 17.6 minutes worth of offenses per game while opponents have committed 18.9. It would appear they've taken measures to correct this part of their game. If they can continue this change in behaviour against the potent Carolina offense, tricolore will stand a chance. And, as Cason suggests, an even-strength series will favour Carolina. A penalty-filled affair is the Habs' best bet for success - as long at the calls are even-steven.
PP/PK: If you look strictly at the success rates, it seem special teams would favour Montreal. However, Carolina plays a higher risk game in both situations with forwards on the points for PPs and an aggressive PK resulting in more SHGs for both sides. To take this into account, you have to look at the net +/- per opportunity, including PPGs for/against and SHGs against/for. Habs are +0.179 goals per power play opportunity and are -0.168 goals per penalty kill. 'Canes are +0.154 on the PP and -0.144 on the PK.
What's it all add up to? A wash. That is, if the opportunities are distributed evenly.
If the referees call everything in sight to make it plain that they're calling it tight, the differential will be crucial. Can we guess how the penalties be distributed? On the season, Montreal has dealt with 463 PPs and 481 PKs for a -18. Carolina has had 531 PPs and only 445 PKs for a whopping difference of +86. Yikes. That is what accounts for the Hurricanes +18 goal differential on special teams for the season, while Montreal is only +2.
This is something I addressed
Betrayed! Red Fisher says "Hurricanes in seven."