I guess we could all get together and have a big cry over the lack of justice in the world for having to watch the New Jersey Devils play an absolute gem against us on Saturday night to lock up a playoff spot, only to lay subsequent eggs against our two playoff rivals. “Too bad so sad” is what my old man would say. The Habs are now in 7th position and are fully submerged in the battle between the final three playoff teams. With Altlanta now trailing by a full two points (and having played one more game than the rest of the group), we can (sort of) remove them temporarily. They aren’t out, but with only 4 games remaining, it will be a tough challenge to play 3 points better than the 6,7, and 8 teams.
As for those final three teams (the Habs, Bruins and Flyers), the gridlock continues as they all have 82 points after 76 games played. For those who might not remember – the tie breakers for the NHL standings are as follows:
2. Points against each other.
3. Differential between goals for and against
Luckily, Montreal has a winning record against all of the teams below them in the standings this season. They play the Flyers one more time before the season is out, which could mean a season split (2-2) should they win in regulation. Should it come down to goals for/against, the Flyers have a significant advantage as they are a +11 to our -4. It really shouldn’t come down to goals, as if either team moved significantly towards one or the other, you have to think that wins and losses would be occurring.
So what does this all mean? Washington has clearly taken 1st place this season and will face the 8th seed in the first round. Montreal has played Washington well this season, however, I’m not convinced that the Habs want any part of Alex the Great after last year’s playoffs, and the showing of his Russians at Olympics. Some are inferring that Washington may crumble with goaltending and issues of physicality, but I don’t really see that happening. It is entirely possible that the Bruins pass the Habs leaving us in 8th, although they have been equally as inconsistent as us lately – and for that reason I think they’ll end up in 8th.
The 2nd seed is still up for grabs as the Penguins hold a 1 point advantage over the Sabres who hold 1 game in hand. Ultimately this may be the defining game that tells us who we play in the 1st round. The question is who is the better opponent? Do you want the Stanley Cup Champions or a team who is backstopped by arguably the best goaltender in the sport? Personally I would prefer Buffalo, a team who we haven’t played particularly well, but does not have the deep playoff experience of the Penguins who are able to play both a run-and-gun, and physical game.
Feel free to disagree with me. That is just my gut feeling. The fact is, both teams present problems for our Habs.
None of that matters tonight however. The only game that matters for the Canadiens is against the resurgent Hurricanes who have only pride left to play for, but are looking more and more like the threatening team that pundits thought they would be at the start of the year. Getting the first goal tonight will be a big boost to either side. The final stretch is here. Go Habs Go!!