The Montreal Canadiens are one loss away from becomming a .500 hockey team.
Since March 19, at least.
Yes, overall, the Habs are sporting a record of 26-10-5, good for second place in the East behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and good for first place in the Northeast, one point ahead of the Boston Bruins.
But, since their 3-2 OT loss to the Sabres on March 19, the Canadiens have put together a record of 7-6. Should they lose to the Philadelphia Flyers Monday night at the Bell Centre, they will drop to 7-7 as of March 19.
And that folks, is .500 hockey.
Time to sound the alarm bells? No. Not yet. As Jacques Demers, the coach of the ’93 Cup-winning Canadiens’ team reminded us Sunday during his speech at the Cummings Centre Sports Celebrity Breakfast, the 1993 Canadiens played mediocre hockey over the last 10 games of the regular season, and still came away with the Stanley Cup.
Are the Canadiens playing mediocre hockey these days? Well, they were pretty mediocre in Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Leafs in Toronto. But, if we are using March 19 as the start of this benchmark, they were simply inspirational in their 6-5 shootout win over the Bruins in Boston March 27. So the jury is still out. Or at least my jury is still out.
If nothing else, the Canadiens’ recent 13-game stretch of barely .500 hockey has left me with a somewhat queasy feeling. True, few (OK: NOBODY) expected the Habs to be in this position with but a handful of regular-season games left: battling for first place within their conference and ther division with a playoff spot safely locked up.
However, don’t count me among those who will be left feeling satisfied with this season should the Habs fall well short of expectations once the playoffs roll around. It’s the Canadiens, themselves, who have raised the bar, and expectations, with their play this season.
Well, up until March 19, at least.