This format will have the 12 teams from each conference ranked, instead of the four teams in each division getting a bye, the top two teams in each conference pass on while the remaining teams play each other.
If this format seeds series’ based on their position in the division, the Habs and Leafs would play. On the other hand, if it looks at the conference as a whole – while passing on the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, who are 1st and 2nd in the East – the Montreal Canadiens would face the Washington Capitals.
So there we have it, three possible formats with three different opponents. The Leafs, Penguins and Capitals are far from being easy competition. Montreal had Toronto’s number this season beating them three teams and matching them for speed while also outworking the play to generate offence.
In Washington and Pittsburgh, who have three Stanley Cups between in the last four years, the Habs will need a lot of things to go the right way. The Penguins, in particular, were hit with a lot of injuries and still managed to climb their way to the top of the standings. The Capitals haven’t lost their offence but have had shaky goaltending via Brayden Holtby. But despite the inconsistency in the position, they’ve still managed to win games.
Any playoff success starts with Carey Price. If he plays to his standard, the Montreal Canadiens have a chance. Each team does have it’s set of offensive juggernauts, in particular, Alexander Ovechkin, who always seems to get goals past Price, so relying on goaltending can’t be the only thing.
The Habs must commit to a single form of hockey and get the most out of it. This season has seen the ‘run and gun’ Montreal Canadiens, the ‘lock and key’ Montreal Canadiens and the, ‘hey, let’s try to do both’ Montreal Canadiens. Each mode has generated varying results, but nothing of substance. You don’t go on two eight-game losing streaks in a single year for no reason, and injuries can’t be the sole cause of it.