Minas Panagiotakis/Icon SMI)
Sitting comfortably in the 15th overall position in the Eastern Conference, 10 points out of a playoff spot and 2-7-2 in their last 10 games, it’s a safe to say the Canadiens will be missing the playoffs this season.
This is a dramatic fall for a team that was one goal away (in overtime) from knocking the Boston Bruins out of the playoffs just a season ago. The Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup that year, and the Canadiens were left with the motivation that they could compete with a bigger, badder, Bruins club – even though their club was built around smaller, speedier players. But that motivation has failed to grow into anything of substance for the club this season.
While the playoffs may be out of reach, there’s still a passion to play the role of spoiler down the stretch.
"Obviously it’s tough sometimes when you’re in the position you’re in to find that motivation. But, we’ve just got to keep working and pushing each other for more," defenceman Josh Gorges told TSN.ca after their loss on Saturday. "I think that’ll be the job of the veteran guys — to make sure that we keep asking everything from everybody until the final game and we don’t stop."
It’s an unusual position for the Canadiens, a club that hasn’t finished this low since the lock-out. The team hasn’t missed the playoffs since the 2006-07 season. That year, the Maple Leafs were the ones playing spoiler to the Canadiens, who needed a win to secure their own playoff berth.
With the tables turned, the Canadiens will be targeting the likes of Toronto and Buffalo in their last 15 games. It offers the Canadiens a chance for respect, and to crush the playoff hopes of their division rivals.
"I think as long as we come with the right mindset and are working towards the right direction, we’ll be OK and we’ll succeed more than we won’t,” Georges said. “But we have to make sure we stay focused on that task and we don’t stray away from it."
The Canadiens will play two more games against the Sabres, and wrap up their season on April 7th with a game against the Maple Leafs.
Northeast Division Notes
Boston Bruins – The Bruins continued their season dominance over the Maple Leafs in a 5-4 win. The club is now 5-0 in games vs. the Maple Leafs this season. Milan Lucic tallied his 200th career point in the win, while Tyler Seguin continued his hot hand against the Maple Leafs scoring two goals on the night. Jordan Caron also had a two goal performance.
Buffalo Sabres – The Sabres will return home this evening for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes before jumping back on the road to visit the Bruins on Thursday. This is their fourth meeting against the Hurricanes, who have a winning record against the Sabres this season. The Sabres are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, and are 6-2-2 in their last 10. Rookie forward Marcus Foligno was returned to Rochester (AHL) yesterday.
Montreal Canadiens – Forward Max Pacioretty is approaching the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. The 23-year-old scored his 27th and 28th goals of the season in the Canadiens 5-4 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. Rene Bourque was a -2 in his return and played 18 minutes.
Ottawa Senators – Ben Bishop made his Ottawa debut on Tuesday with a win for the Senators. He stopped 25 of 28 shots. The Senators pounded the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 in the contest. Milan Michalek eclipsed the 30-goal mark with a hat-trick in the game (3 goals, 1 assist on the night). He has 32 goals on the year and 50 points. Colin Greening had a Gordie Howe hat-trick by recording a goal, an assist and a fight vs. Lightning defenseman Keith Aulie.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Forwards Joffrey Lupul and Colby Armstrong left the game with individual injuries. Lupul was knocked into the boards by David Krejci, while Armstrong was clocked by Dennis Seidenberg in a fight. Neither is expected to play vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. Phil Kessel’s goal and assist puts him at the 70-point mark for the first time in his career. He’s the first Maple Leafs player to hit the mark since Mats Sundin scored 78 points in 2007-08.