Thanks to a 6-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night, the Montreal Canadiens are now on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs.
By no mean are the Habs out of it entirely.
They moved into a tie with the Blue Jackets, with both teams holding 90 points. Columbus is ahead due to games played.
If Thursday’s action means anything, it’s that Montreal has to put it behind them and get back on the horse. Quickly.
It’s not easy to drop a game after being up 2-1, particularly in such an extraordinary way. Particularly against a team like the Blue Jackets, their adversaries for a post-season pole position.
Columbus has won three straight and is 6-3-1 over their last 10, while Montreal is 5-4-1.
The Carolina Hurricanes have 91 points, which means that first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference is also up for grabs. The Hurricanes may have decided to cease their Storm Surge festivities, but you have to know they’re for real and will press every game to its limit.
For the Canadiens, it’s time to rebound.
“No matter how bad this loss hurts, we’ve got character players in that dressing room,” said head coach Claude Julien. “They’re character players that care, that want to do well, and as a coach you love seeing that. I’ve got a lot of young guys but I’ve also got some veterans and a good mix, so I’m confident we’re going to go to Winnipeg and we’re going to be ready to play.”
It’s a good plan. The Habs could completely collapse under the heft of Thursday’s loss. After all, losing to the Blue Jackets eradicates any breathing room they could’ve had going into a rough final four.
The Canadiens play the Jets Saturday, then face off against Tampa Bay, Washington and Toronto. Three of those four clubs are already in the post-season, which means that the opposition might be resting some star players. That could give Montreal a window of opportunity, but the wins have to come.
Columbus and Carolina have easier schedules. The Blue Jackets have Nashville, Buffalo, Boston, the Rangers, and the Senators to close up shop. And the Hurricanes play Philadelphia twice, plus they rumble with Pittsburgh, Toronto and New Jersey.
Montreal needs a few favours and they’ll be doing a bit of scoreboard watching throughout the next week. Losing to the Blue Jackets may have put a playoff berth out of their hands, but there’s still a chance if they focus on getting every point they can.
(Photo credit: Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)