The Montreal Canadiens had a decent month of October. Their schedule has them set up for a terrific month of November if they can take advantage of a weak schedule.
The Montreal Canadiens had a decent month of October. It started up and down with three of their first four games going to overtime. They were 1-1-2 after those games thanks to huge third periods against the Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres that gave them a total of four points that seemed out of reach.
A pair of road victories to close out the month gave them a 5-2-0 record over their final seven games of October. This left them with a 7-4-2 record after 13 games. That is a 101 point pace over a full season which would see the Habs qualify for the playoffs for sure. They just missed last year with 96 points, so they need to be a tad better to make it this time around.
The month of October was good, but the month of November has a chance to be fantastic for the Montreal Canadiens. They have started with a loss to the Dallas Stars which was their third game in four nights on the road in the western conference. They bounced back with a 5-4 victory over the league’s best team, the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.
The Habs have 11 more games to play this month, and would be the unquestioned favourite to win nine of them. The schedule is so weak in front of them that it should be the month that propels them safely into a playoff spot.
There are a few reasons that the Habs should be about to embark on a lengthy run of success. First of all, of their next 11 games, eight of them are at the Bell Centre. It’s always nice to be playing in front of a home crowd, especially when that crowd is as excited and energetic as the Bell Centre.
Even the three road games they play are not that far from home. The Habs travel to Philadelphia tonight, head to Washington to a face the Capitals and take a quick flight to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets. That is not a lot of miles for an NHL team over a four week span.
Also, the competition they about to face this month is not very fierce. The Habs are currently 17th in the NHL standings which is nothing to brag about. Even from their not so lofty perch, nine of their next 11 games will be against teams currently below them in the standings and outside of the playoff picture at the moment.
The rest of the month is bookended by games with the Flyers. In between the Habs face the Los Angeles Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Blue Jackets again, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and the Devils again.
Those 11 games will see the Habs face a combined opponent’s record of 68-63-25. If you don’t include the two tough games against the Capital and Bruins who are the two best teams in the league right now, nine of the Habs next 11 games are against teams that have gone a combined 46-59-20. That’s like playing a team that will end up with 73 points at the end of the season nine times in just over three weeks.
The Canadiens should dominate those teams this month. This is going to be an important stretch for the Habs. If they go on a great run, which they should, they could be among the top teams in the Atlantic Division when the calendar flips to December. If they can’t go on an extended run, and finish the next 11 games with a 5-4-2 record or something similar to that, we could be pointing to the month of November when the Habs left points on the table as the reason they missed the playoffs.
The scary thing right now is the Habs are playing great against tough competition, but struggling against lower teams in the standings. Their five regulation losses have come to the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay Lightning, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars. Those five teams have a combined record of 28-43-6.
That trend is going to have to stop immediately. If it does, and the Canadiens can start to take advantage of their weak schedule in November, they are going to be sitting pretty on December 1st.
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In fact, if the Habs can take one of the games from the Bruins or Capitals and put together a solid, but unspectacular 6-3-0 record against their weak competitors in November, they would surely jump into one of the three playoff spots in the Atlantic Division. If they can really dominate their weak opponents by winning seven of those nine games, they could be pushing the Bruins for first in the Atlantic by month’s end.