Boy, that cushion disappeared fast.
Once considered near locks for the playoffs, Montreal now find itself in one of the two wild card spots after a single win in their last five games. Over that stretch, backup Peter Budaj and AHL starter Dustin Tokarski have allowed eighteen goals, or 3.6 per game. At the time of year when playoff teams look to gain home ice and bubble teams look to make it to the dance, every point is crucial. With a path of rough hockey coming at the worst possible time and a slew of teams behind them smelling blood, how likely is it that Montreal makes the playoffs? To answer that, we’ll have to look at their schedule.
As I’m writing this Montreal has fifteen games remaining in their regular season. I’ll do a quick rundown of the demographics of these games, to try to get a sense of the competition they’ll be facing. Of the fifteen games, seven are at home and eight are on the road. Seven are against playoff teams and eight are against non-playoff teams. Both of these categories are essentially washes, as the numbers for either side of the topic in question could not be closer. From this all we learn is that Montreal’s schedule is pretty run-of-the-mill. To get a better idea of the expected result, I’ll take a look at their record this season against the teams they’ll be playing.
The Habs’ record on the season against the teams they’ll be playing in their coming games is 18-11-6. Not bad. Basic mathematics gives us a point percentage of exactly 0.6% in that stretch, which isn’t far off from the team’s mark of 0.575% on the entire season. Assuming that Montreal matches that 0.6% pace over the remaining 15 games, the Habs would end up with 95 points in total. As a reference point, a team with 95 points would have made the playoffs in the East in each of the last five full seasons.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that Montreal’s fate is in its own hands. If they play reasonably well over the coming weeks, the Habs will make the playoffs. That’s always re-assuring, and that’s surely what Michel Therrien is letting his group know as we come into the stretch. Carey Price is also close to a return, which will surely lend stability to a position that’s been anything but stable since the Olympic break. On the flipside, there’s also the cliff that accompanies being on the bubble. If they can’t string together the points needed to stay afloat, we’ll be looking at tee times instead of ice times come mid April. The good news though? The players decide how long they want their season to be.