It’s only January 18th but when you are in 9th place or lower in your Conference it’s never too early to start talking about the playoffs. In fact if you aren’t already closely watching the race you’re more likely to be on the outside looking in after 82 games.
The Canadiens currently sit 10th in the Eastern Conference with 4 teams above them within 3 points of their reach.
The Good News: The Canadiens hold 3 games in hand on 3 of those teams and 2 games in hand on the slumping Leafs.
The Bad News: The Canadiens trail the Atlanta Thrashers, New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lighnting.
The Atlanta Thrashers are red hot and are 7-2-1 in their last 10. This is largely due to getting their #1 goalie Kari Lehtonen healthy again. The Thrashers have had a potent offence for some time now and a real netminder is giving them a strong chance at a playoff birth. Barring injury this team won’t be slowing down.
The New Jersey Devils have erased a bad start and a shaky goaltender early on to climb back into the race. Martin Brodeur is defensive player of the week and he has refound his All-Star form. Good news for Canadian Olympic fans, bad news for teams trying to catch the Devils. Did you really think the Devils were going to bow down?
The Tampa Bay Lightning like the Devils had a bad start considering they’re defending Cup Champs and the skill on their team. They are turning it around too and are lurking just above the Canadiens. Missing the playoffs after winning the Cup would be a huge dissapointment. The Lightning got rid of their Captain Dave Andreychuck midway through the season. They’re prepared to do whatever it takes.
The Toronto Maple Leafs sit at 51 points. The Leafs are struggling as of late and after losing Bryan McCabe it’s not looking good. Unless Mats Sundin can carry the team on his own they may slide further. I wouldn’t expect any help from Eric Lindros. Jeez, who could have predicted he’d be missing games due to injury?
The Habs have a potential 6 points to gain on all these teams and 4-6 would put them right back in the mix.