Since 1999, with the onset of March, the Canadiens have marched blindly off the precipice in a lemming-like team collapse.
Three years ago they were able to back into the playoffs on the tiebreaking formula over Florida on the heels of 7-8-4 month of March.
Last season, it was 3-4-3 over the final ten games leading to a playoff berth by the single point earned in an overtime loss to Toronto in the 82nd game.
Here we go again. Four losses the last five games; seven the last ten games. An eighth place finish seems to be a stronger possibility than the once comfortable sixth, where the Canadiens have been for the last thirty games.
So, what’s the deal here? Spring fever? They’re tired? Too much Montreal fan pressure? Spring break? Years ago I stopped trying to figure out why teams collectively fail to turn up for long stretches. They just do it; and they have to find their own way out of it. Most of the time the coaches can’t do anything about it..
Will it be easier to face Philadelphia, Washington or Boston in the first round of the playoffs? Each opponent presents unique problems; Philadelphia with it’s outstanding top-to-bottom offensive depth; Boston with it’s goaltending and intimidation factor (although that’s always diminished in the playoffs) or Washington with it’s newfound defensive responsibility and the ever-present Ovechkin. Each has obvious strengths but at the same time exploitable weaknesses.
But, a team has to have it’s own house in order before it can take advantage an opponent’s weaknesses. The last three weeks the Canadiens have been the exploited ones.
They have four games to get it straightened out starting tomorrow night in New Jersey against the always-difficult Martin Brodeur and the Devils.