The Montreal Canadiens got a lot of help from friends around the league as they could’ve found themselves out of a playoff spot if certain events took place.
Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins was a tough game for the Montreal Canadiens to lose. They came up strong getting a win from the New York Rangers, but the Pittsburgh game was a match of crucial importance given how close the two teams are in the standings. Unfortunately, the Habs didn’t score their first goal via Brendan Gallagher until it was 4-0 in the second period as Carey Price finished the night stopping 20 of 24 shots.
Montreal also put themselves in a position to be knocked out of a playoff spot. Pittsburgh’s win placed them in the first wild-card spot leaving the Habs to take hold of the second. The Columbus Blue Jackets had another game Sunday on the second half of a back-to-back which could’ve had them leapfrog the Montreal Canadiens into a playoff spot as they would get the tiebreaker having had more wins.
Thankfully, the good ol’ Winnipeg Jets decided to be the Winnipeg Jets defeating the Blue Jackets 5-2. Jets captain Blake Wheeler was the star of the night scoring four goals in a row after Sami Niku‘s first in the opening period.eweee
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Connor Hellebuyck deserves a lot of credit as well. Columbus wasn’t being dominated, and the Winnipeg netminder came up big to make a number of key saves for the team stopping 34 of 35 shots (.952 save percentage). Sergei Bobrovsky, on the other hand, didn’t look too well stats wise finishing the night at a .840 with little goal support from his forwards.
That was the second time in two nights where Columbus was run out of the building. The night before saw the Edmonton Oilers light them up for four goals with none going the other way for the Blue Jackets. Odd considering the additions of Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel who were meant to bring more offence to the forward lines.
The Montreal Canadiens are safe for now and have an opportunity to get back on the horse and earn some points to further the gap. The Blue Jackets aren’t going to struggle forever and will eventually reach that level of urgency to take them over the top given the management’s confidence in them to go for a long playoff run.
There is another thing to keep in mind. Montreal is in the second wild-card spot, which isn’t an ideal one. That spells a first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning who are cruising their way to one of the greatest regular season records in NHL history.
The Habs have taken on and had great series against the Lightning in the past and have come out victorious. However, that’s the past, and this is a much more lethal team. Not to say the Habs would be walking into a sweep or anything but it will be a more challenging first-round if they wind up finishing there instead of the first wild-card spot.
That said, I may be jumping to conclusions here. A playoff spot still isn’t a guarantee and the Montreal Canadiens have work to do to get themselves in a position to clinch before the season ends.