To paraphrase an old Broadway song, “The games dwindle down to a precious few”.

For the Canadiens time and space are running out.

With 31 games remaining in their season the Canadiens need to win well over 75% of their games in order to make the playoffs.

Is it do-able? Absolutely not with the team as currently constituted, although the players refuse to admit it.  “it ain’t over till it’s over” they keep telling us.

After their loss to Washington Monday night, the computers at the website PlayoffStatus.com say there is only a 3% chance of an 2020 playoff appearance for the Canadiens this year.  In other words, odds are 97% against.

No team in history has come back from those odds from this point in their season, including last year’s St. Louis Blues.

Here are the cold-hard facts. The Canadiens have 31 games remaining. It will take somewhere between 94 and 98 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. I like to use 95 points which is the average over the last ten years or so. The Canadiens have 51 which means they need 44 in 31 games to reach 95 which, in the case last year, was still not enough to qualify. Ninety-five points translates to a record of 22-9 or some combination that still adds up to the 44 points.

As we’ve said before, from the management standpoint it is time to get real and think of June’s entry draft.   If it were held tomorrow the Canadiens would be picking seventh overall, depending on the lotter

 

MISTAKE PRONE

Most games in the NHL, the team that makes the fewest mistakes win. The Canadiens mistakes cost them the game Monday night. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the right place but in the wrong time which is what happened when Jeff Petry put the puck into his own net on the second period power play goal that gave Washington the lead. Then it was Shea Weber, failing to ensure a rolling puck deep in his end and having Kuznetsov set up Jakob Vrana for what turned out to be the game winner.

And the penalties.

Why for instance with a couple of seconds left in a period would Phillip Danault take a high sticking penalty. The Capitals started the second period on a power play and tied the game just as Danault was leaving the box. Then Max Domi allowed his check to get away from him and was forced into a penalty and the Capitals scored on that power play.

Poor puck management, bad penalties. We’ve had a lot of that this season.

INCONSISTENT

Also seen far too often the season, the Canadiens inability to put three consecutive periods together. They were good in the first period. Also good in the third period. But they lost their way in the second period and it was enough to lose the game. Games like that in the Bell Centre has left the Canadiens with only 10 wins in 27 home games.

CAN’T DO IT ALONE

The prevailing opinion has been if Carey Price would get hot the Canadiens might have a shot. Well, Carey is hot.

Going into the Washington game he had a recent 4-0-0 record with a save percentage of over .930. He gave the Canadiens the important saves against the Capitals. That windmill save on the Backstrom breakaway was another for his highlight reel.

MR. FIVE HUNDRED

The fact that Dale Weise is back in the Montreal and contributing is a tribute to his dedication.  This was his 500th career NHL game which, considering his given-talent, is really remarkable.  In the old days, they would refer to Weise as an “honest player”; in other words one who gives everything on every shift.  Weise has done that since he came up from what most considered a career-ending trip to the American League.   We’ve often mentioned this month that Weise has been doing what fourth liners are supposed to which is check, supply some muscle and work. He did it again against the Capitals and scored the goal that gave his team and the crowd a little hope in the third period. Weise has actually given the fourth line some sadly lacking and unexpected scoring muscle. He has four points in his last five games.

SUZUKI

In all of the inconsistencies, Nick Suzuki continues to impress night-in night-out. Some games are better than others, but few can be viewed negatively.  Against Washington there was the blind backhand pass in front to Joel Armia that led to a long review before it was judged that the puck had not crossed the line. And his pass to Weise for the goal that narrowed it to 3-2 was equally perfect.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….We’ve been waiting for Ilya Kovalchuk to have a bad one. This was it. It seemed like he couldn’t get out of his own way most of the night highlighted by the collision with Nate Thompson.  That said, he had a pretty good but unproductive third period.

….Tomas Tatar’s terrific pass to Jeff Petry in front of the Washington goal to gave the Canadiens their 1-0 lead. As we move into February most discussion will be about what the Canadiens might get in return for him should them elect to trade him at the deadline.  Tatar is not a rental so the price will be high.

….The Canadiens trail Carolina by ten points in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race.  Carolina owns the tie break so they would need eleven to pass them.  In the Atlantic Division they are ten behind Florida and the Panthers also own the ROW tiebreaker.

….Braden Holtby may be having a difficult year, but he is now 7-1-0 in his last eight starts against the Canadiens and career 14-2-2.

MOVING ON

The Canadiens play the Sabres in Buffalo Thursday night. The Sabres and Canadiens are tied at 51 points. Buffalo has a game in hand. After Buffalo, they return home for the two Super Bowl weekend afternoon games against Florida and Columbus.