The Habs aren’t considered a top Cup contender, but Saturday night’s win over the Maple Leafs certainly didn’t hurt. Prior to this game, the Leafs had beaten the Habs 4 games in a row and they certainly had our collective numbers. In a potential preview of a playoff series, Coach Julien stated that this time it was “our turn.” Indeed it was as the Habs came forth with a very good 60 minute team effort, and the final score showed it. Everyone from the top to the bottom of the lineup helped get us this victory, and it will certainly be a win that we can look back on when we are in the middle of a tough playoff series.
The 2 points in the standings were big, the Habs now sit just 3 points behind those same Maple Leafs and have found themselves tied with the Devils in 6th place. With 8 wins in their last 10, Montreal can now boast that they are the hottest team in the league, outside of the unbelievable Lightning. Aside from the standings point of view and looking at the team’s morale, this win was worth a lot more than just 2 points.Simply picture the Canadiens going into a playoff series against the Leafs having dropped 5 consecutive games to Toronto. The team’s confidence would be low and the mentality of everyone in the locker room would have to be one of worry instead of confidence. After this victory, the players must believe we can win a 7 game series against Toronto and believing is the first step to being successful.
For the first time in several years the Habs have some breathing room between themselves and 9th place. In fact we should be looking to gain on the team’s ahead of us and I would expect the players and coaches to have aspirations of home ice advantage, rather than simply making the playoffs. As amazing as the first 4 months of the season had been, the last 13 games, starting with a 4-1 victory over the Flames, have been outstanding. With just 2 regulation losses over that stretch and wins over eastern powerhouses such as Toronto, Boston, New Jersey and Ottawa the team has gained a lot of confidence for a club that was supposed to be nearing the end of their season according to most predictions (including my own.)
The Habs may be no one’s pick for the Stanley Cup. But we weren’t anyone’s pick for playoffs either. Not to suggest that this is the year, but this season is about as wide open as Trevor Kidd’s five hole, and anything can happen, which is one reason why the “experts” don’t decide who hoists Lord Stanley’s Mug come June.