Montreal Canadiens: Embarrassing Record vs Detroit Has Knocked Habs Out Of Playoff Race

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 07: Charlie Lindgren #39 of the Montreal Canadiens looks up at the score board after a Detroit Red Wings goal during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on January 7, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The Wings defeated the Canadiens 4-3. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 07: Charlie Lindgren #39 of the Montreal Canadiens looks up at the score board after a Detroit Red Wings goal during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on January 7, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The Wings defeated the Canadiens 4-3. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens are closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings than they are to playoff positioning. If not for losing to the Detroit Red Wings they would still be in the race.

The Montreal Canadiens were a good team last season. They had their flaws for sure but in the salary cap era of the National Hockey League there is no such thing as a perfect team. The Tampa Bay Lightning looked like the perfect team last year, winning 62 regular season games but they were swept in four straight playoff games in the opening round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Habs held their own and finished the season with 96 points which is no easy task. However, it was not enough to get them into the postseason. Unfortunately, the cut-off would be 98, and the Canadiens held the awful distinction of being the best team in hockey that was not good enough to qualify for the playoffs. They were the only team in the league that outscored their opponent and missed the playoffs.

The National Hockey League isn’t really a place for moral victories so it stung to see a good team that was not quite good enough. It was hoped the Habs would make the necessary adjustments during their lengthy offseason to make up the difference.

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The Canadiens had an interesting offseason to say the least, but it was tough to see where the improvements were going to come from. First, the Habs shipped out Andrew Shaw after his best season in Montreal. Then they signed Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet that was eventually matched by the Carolina Hurricanes. They did sign Nick Cousins, Ben Chiarot and Keith Kinkaid.

It wasn’t immediately obvious where the upgrades were coming from, but a strong training camp from Nick Suzuki and Cale Fleury once again led to optimism in Montreal. An 11-5-3 start to the year along with struggling starts from division rivals in Tampa and Toronto had fans dreaming of the postseason in the middle of November.

Less than two months later and even the eternally optimistic are having a hard time creating a scenario that allows for a Canadiens playoff game in 2020.

The Canadiens currently have 43 points in 44 games which puts them 13th in the 16 team Eastern Conference. The Philadelphia Flyers are sitting in the final wild card spot at the moment and they have 50 points in the same number of games. The seven point gap between teams doesn’t sound insurmountable when you have nearly half a season to play, but there are four other teams in between them that the Habs would need to leapfrog.

Those seven points can be impossible to make up in a league that sees plenty of three point games with loser points being tossed around. With the salary cap in effect, there is a parity among teams in the NHL like we haven’t seen before. It is tough to look back at games and say “they should have had that one” when anyone can beat anyone on a given night.

Except for this season. The Detroit Red Wings are possibly the worst team we have seen since the salary cap was put in effect for the 2005-06 season. They have a record of 11-30-3 and are on pace to finish the year with 47 points. They are the easiest two points on anyone’s calendar in the past decade-and-a-half.

That is good news for Atlantic Division rivals who get to play the Red Wings five times. The Canadiens have already played them three times. The Habs results in those three games? A 4-2 loss in their home opener, a 2-1 loss in regulation at the Bell Centre on December 14th and a 4-3 regulation time loss in their most recent game.

That is three losses, all of which came in regulation, against quite possibly the worst team we have seen since they put a trapezoid behind the net. The Red Wings record against the rest of the league is 8-30-3, yet they are perfect against the Habs in three contests. That is eight wins in half of a season’s worth of games against everyone else.

Normally it is foolish to say that a team should have won their games against another team. That is not the case with this year’s version of the Red Wings. Allowing the Wings to beat you once out of three is bad. Twice would be unbelievable. Three times is just unfathomable.

If the Canadiens earned six points in their games against the worst team we have seen in recent memory, they would be one point out of a wildcard spot right now. We would be saying they have hit a rough patch, but just need to tread water until they are healthy again and they can take a run at the postseason.

They would still be a point behind the Flyers who are in a playoff spot, a point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and tied with the Florida Panthers for tenth in the conference. They would still be in tough to get into a wild card spot, but it would be within reach.

However, thanks to their putrid play against the Red Wings, that is a fantasy. The Canadiens are seven points behind the Flyers and Blue Jackets, six back of the Panthers, and also trail the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers who have both played less games than Montreal.

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Being able to jump over all of those teams is going to take nothing short of a miracle at this point. The playoffs are out of reach this season and it is because the Canadiens could not beat the Red Wings in three attempts.