Montreal Canadiens: Moving Up North Division Standings While Not Playing

Mar 19, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

Montreal Canadiens games have been cancelled for this week as two players entered Covid-19 protocol.

Joel Armia and then Jesperi Kotkaniemi were both added to the NHL’s unsuitable to play list on Monday and it resulted in the cancellation of that night’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. The rest of the week’s games were wiped out as well, with another pair of contests against the Oilers knocked off the schedule and a game against the Ottawa Senators removed from the to-do list on Sunday.

We could see the Canadiens back in action as soon as Wednesday night against the Senators. Since no one else has been added to the Covid list since the Habs two forwards were place on is four days ago, it’s a good sign that the Canadiens will be able to play on Wednesday.

Normally, when a team is sitting on the sidelines, they are prone to being passed in the standings by other teams who are actually playing games. That hasn’t been the case for the Canadiens. In fact, their playoff hopes have increased quite a bit since they last played even though they’ve been  stuck in neutral all week.

The Canadiens entered the week in fourth place in the North Division. That puts them in a playoff spot as four teams will clinch postseason berths in each division this year.

The Habs have 37 points in 31 games this season. The Canucks came into this week in fifth place with 35 points in 35 games and the Calgary Flames had 33 points in 32 games for sixth place. Though the Canadiens were sure to have games in hand at the end of their undesired break, they ran the risk of dropping to sixth in points.

Games in hand are great, but this team has shown it can go on an eight game winless streak better than anyone, so falling behind other teams comes with risk no matter how many games they’ve played.

However, the Canadiens have no need to worry as both the Flames and Canucks have struggled this week.

The Flames lost a pair of games to the Ottawa Senators in regulation, and the Canucks were defeated twice in a row in regulation by the Winnipeg Jets. That’s four games that went perfectly for the Canadiens since their covid recess.

With games being postponed for the first time in the North Division, it opens the possibility that points percentage, and not just points, will be how teams are ranked at season’s end.

The Canadiens are sitting at a .597 points percentage due to their 14-8-9 record. The Flames were  at .515 points percentage at the start of the week but have dropped to .485. The Canucks dipped from .500 to .473 this week.

That means, while sitting on the sidelines, the Canadiens saw their lead on the non-playoff teams grow considerably.

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Usually, a team sitting idle would be forced to watch other teams leapfrog them in standings. The Canadiens have been fortunate as the teams behind them have struggled, and saw their points percentage drop while the Habs playoff chances increased.