It's almost over.
On Tuesday evening, the Montreal Canadiens resisted as best they could, only to gently succumb in the end. In conceding the loss, they allowed the Florida Panthers to clinch the Atlantic division title; a milestone which will almost certainly be the final act of significance in which the Habs participate this season.
To make matters worse, the triumphant return to the Habs of Carey Price, P.K. Subban, and respectability has been postponed for a few months.
For tonight, and again on Saturday, fans will have to comfort themselves with the scant remains of a would-be playoff contender.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|51.3||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||51.5|
|0.95||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.86|
Know Your Enemy
The Hurricanes hung on a little longer than the Habs did, but with two games to go, both teams have arrived to the same place.
The 'Canes put up a respectable showing this year despite an acute lack of talent, but with Eric Staal gone, things look even more grim. Nonetheless, with players like Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, and Noah Hanifin looking ready to contribute sooner than later, there is hope on the horizon in Raleigh.
For now, they may as well try to beat the Habs. As the team most likely to suffer the indignity of missing the playoffs and drafting in double-digits, it may be their only opportunity to preserve some pride.
Last Time Out
The actual game, last time out, was tedium peppered with moments of anxiety, and ultimately a win. The context, however, was more exciting. When the Habs beat the Hurricanes on Super Bowl Sunday, 2-1, it was a second win in two days.
Ben Scrivens got the start, and surrendered the game-opening goal to Jeff Skinner under three minutes in. Things didn't exactly stabilize from there, but that was all the offence Carolina would muster.
Max Pacioretty would tie things up, taking advantage of time and space to rip a bar-down wrister past Cam Ward. The free real estate came courtesy of Subban and Andrei Markov, who broke down the Carolina penalty kill with two quick lateral passes.
Carolina would mark a number of scoring chances before regulation time came to an end, but Scrivens and a healthy dose of Hurricane misfortune kept things knotted at one. Subban came close to ending things with a couple of individual efforts in OT, but we would get through four rounds of shootout before seeing a resolution in the fifth. That came courtesy of Sven Andrighetto, who roofed the puck past a helpless Ward for the win.
The winning weekend felt like the start of a last stand for Montreal, but the rebellion never materialized. That leaves us where we are tonight, watching a clash of two teams with nothing left to play for.
Seeing Charlie Lindgren in net will be novel, but if Marc Bergevin has learned anything from this season, there is no way Lindgren's debut will be that of a player who will see time with the Tricolore next season.
So, beyond the masochistic pleasure of the waiting for the quickly-approaching end, maybe tonight will have to be about watching the Habs for the same reason one would watch them in October.
Because even with the season dead and buried, watching Alex Galchenyuk rip one-timers still hasn't gotten old.