The Montreal Canadiens can do themselves a HUGE favour this afternoon by taking it to the struggling New York Rangers. With two games in hand the Habs sit 1 point ahead of the blueshirts for 6th place in the Eastern Conference. Unless the Habs are able to overtake the Bruins at some point in the season – 6th place is exactly where they want to be. It is far too early for standings jockying – but beating the Rangers today would put real distance between the two clubs. Having two extra games in hand and a 3 point lead would be a great start.
The reason I bring up 6th place is that a quick look at the Standings reveals what potential playoff matchups could be. I think we can all agree that the Canadiens want no part of a first round matchup with the Flyers. Its unlikely that the Canadiens fall to eighth place, but still – the Habs want as many teams to get a crack at the Flyers as possible before facing their toughest matchup.
A 7th place finish would earn the Canadiens a matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and while the matchup between the pipes is heavily in our favour – I personally do not relish the opportunity to face the hungry home-boys and Steven Stamkos in the first round. Not that I think the Lightning are un-beatable, because their defense is not the type that you see as a playoff corps – but with so many great options up front – the habs do not match up well.
6th place (unless we can jump to 3rd) is where I would like to see the Habs end up. :Landing here would set up a tough series against our perennial play-off foes the Bruins, which is not in itself something to hope for considering how good the Bruins have been this year, and yet I can’t help but feel the Habs match up well against the B’s. There is no doubt who the more physical team is. The Bruins are tough. They have an incredible goalie who could easily make short work of the Canadiens – and yet the Habs always seem to find a way to win against the Bruins. The Habs are far quicker than the B’s and can generally skate circles around their defense, and considering the troubles the Bruins had closing out the Flyers last season – I have to say they represent the best first round opponent to get the playoff blood pumping.
Finishing in 5th place would see the abs in a playoff re-match with the Penguins. Yes the Canadiens did a job on them last year. No I don’t for a second think that a first round victory would be in the cards. Sid is too good – and given the motivation he would have I think this might be the worst first round matchup of the bunch. I say let the Caps tire out the Pens in the first round. Let Sid and Ovie go crazy trying to out-do each other – and let us clean up the scraps.
Clearly I’m way ahead of myself in breaking down the playoff picture, but I can see a clear picture emerging. Injuries to any team could drastically effect where the teams might end up, but I like the B’s for the first round.
What do you guys think?
Go Habs Go!!!