I’ve been feeling a lot of deja vu lately. In 2006/07, the Canadiens their last game of the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs and were subsequently bumped from the playoffs. Once again this year, on the last day of the season Montreal managed to lose to the Leafs, this time in overtime, luckily needing only one point to advance to the post-season. It was close. Too close. Last season the Montreal Canadiens lost 3 of their last 4 games to end the season in 8th place setting up a first round matchup with a dangerous, young team with the most points in the league. Sound familiar?
Montreal’s late season melt-down has brought forth a problematic new reality for any faithful souls who hold onto the hope that Montreal can make a long post-season run. Our first round opponent had 33 more points than us in the regular season. 15 more wins to be exact. For all the talk of their goaltending problems, Washington held a +85 goal differential during the 82 game regular season. Let’s just say you don’t want to know what our differential was.
But even though the Caps hold a definite advantage in all statistical categories there is evidence to suggest this series has the potential to be an exciting one. During the regular season the Habs held a 2-1-1 record against the Caps. The games were all close, and while most people are predicting a short series with a Washington win, you can never count a team out in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ve seen too many upsets over the years to think differently.
This much is for sure: to have ANY chance in this series, Montreal will need to have fantastic goaltending by whoever finds themselves between the goal posts. There is very little margin for error when you’re facing a team that threatens to score on almost every shift. The Habs will need to play a smart, defensively sound game and find a way to capitalize (no pun intended) on their scoring opportunities when they get them. Down the stretch this is what truly killed the team. From the powerplay on down, Montreal forwards started running cold. We failed to take advantage of the openings that other teams gave us, and as a result our results were not good.
The fun starts Thursday in Washinton. Giddy-up.
Go Habs Go!!!