The Montreal Canadiens are set to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the play-in round to see who makes the playoffs. Here are three reasons the Habs could surprise.
The Montreal Canadiens 2019-20 season was far from the best we have seen from the Habs in their lengthy history. They started well, but quickly found themselves on an eight game losing streak and just when they thought they corrected the ship, they set out on their second eight game losing streak.
The result was a team that was playing for nothing even before the trade deadline and started selling off veterans for draft picks once missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season became inevitable.
It wasn’t supposed to go this way for the Habs. They had just missed the playoffs a year ago, finishing with 96 in the standings which is one of the highest totals ever from a non-playoff team. They didn’t really change their roster dramatically, trading Andrew Shaw for draft picks, losing Jordie Benn to free agency and signing Ben Chiarot.
They also brought in Keith Kinkaid which was seen as a fine move. It had to be an improvement on what Antti Niemi did last season, right? What were the chances Kinkaid would play so bad that Carey Price wouldn’t really have a backup in the final few months of the season? Okay, so that one didn’t work out obviously and Kinkaid was eventually loaned out to an AHL team.
So, the Canadiens this season weren’t supposed to be a powerhouse in the eastern conference, but they shouldn’t have been much worse than the 96 point team from 2018-19.
Of course, we know now that the Habs were ten points back of the playoffs when the NHL pushed the pause button on the schedule in March and had no chance of climbing back into the playoff picture.
Except, they just did. The Montreal Canadiens are now three wins away from a playoff appearance. The league has not officially announced anything, but they are working towards having 24 teams return to play at some point this summer, with eight teams advancing straight to the playoffs and the other 16 playing best-of-5 play-in series to join those top teams.
This format will pit the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Montreal Canadiens. On paper it is quite a mismatch. The Penguins finished 15 points ahead of the Habs in the standings and that was while playing two less games than Montreal. They are a stacked roster with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the way and a real threat to win their third Stanley Cup in the past five years.
However, let’s not count out the Montreal Canadiens just yet. Here are the top three reasons the Habs could surprise everyone and go on a deep run this summer.