The Montreal Canadiens recently suffered through an eight game losing streak. Not many teams can survive such a lengthy stretch of awful play, but there are reasons to believe these Habs can still be a dangerous team.
The Montreal Canadiens have been a tough team to figure out in the 2019 portion of the 2019-20 season. They started with an okay record, but even when they won it was usually due to miraculous third period comebacks or squeezing out a point in a game that was all but lost with ten minutes to play.
As the end of October approached and the calendar flipped to November, the Habs started to look like a great hockey team. They went on a nine game stretch where they collected 15 of a possible 18 points due to their 7-1-1 record. They beat great teams along the way like the Washington Capitals, the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues. They looked like a contender in the Eastern Conference after taking apart the Capitals for a 5-2 win on November 15th.
Then came the second half of November. The Habs were mired in a losing streak that they just couldn’t snap. Fingers were point at the coach, the general manager, the goaltender, the defence, the forwards not being deep enough to survive a couple of injuries to Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron. There were no answer to be found in November.
The losing streak stretched to eight games when the Habs let a 1-0 lead slip away to the Bruins on December 1st. The season seemed over. Who loses eight games in a row and then makes the playoffs? Get to derniere for Lafreniere was a more popular refrain around Montreal than anything to do with the postseason.
Then, the Habs finally snapped their skid. They defeated the New York Islanders 4-2, made a game out of a 3-0 deficit to the Colorado Avalanche in Cayden Primeau’s first game in the National Hockey League and then beat the New York Rangers 2-1 last night. It is a decent stretch of hockey for any team, but it felt like a miracle for a team that had just suffered its longest losing streak since World War II.
Then you look at the standings this morning and see the Montreal Canadiens are in second place in the Atlantic Division. How is that even possible? We were all googling Quinton Byfield highlights like three days ago. The most popular search on the internet around Montreal last week was “2020 NHL Draft, left defencemen.” (I don’t know if that is 100% accurate.)
Yet, here we are just a few days later and the Habs are not only in a playoff spot, but they would start the postseason at the Bell Centre if the playoffs started this afternoon.
Is this team actually good? Should we be expecting a playoff berth now? What do I do with all those Lafreniere highlights I liked on twitter?
We should definitely be expecting this team to be talking about playoffs in March and April. There are no guarantees in this game, but there are certainly reasons for optimism around the Habs again. Let’s take a look at the top three.