With a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Montreal Canadiens would have had some breathing room in the standings, and their own destiny in their hands. Now, they need all the help they can get, and their schedule does not make things easy.
Montreal heads off to Winnipeg on Saturday, a team they thrashed earlier in 2019, then the President’s Trophy-clinching Tampa Bay Lightning, the Metro-leading Washington Capitals, and then the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Three of those four teams have locked up playoff berths, which could actually be a saving grace for Montreal as some teams may rest star players for their upcoming playoff runs. Tampa Bay almost assuredly should as they have nothing to play for as a team right now, and by the time the Toronto game rolls around, the Leafs will likely sit some players as well.
However, none of that matters if the Canadiens don’t win. That’s all the team can do at this point. Just win games.
The Blue Jackets play three lottery clubs in their next four games, and have a match against the Boston Bruins (another team that may be resting players). The Carolina Hurricanes play the Philadelphia Flyers twice, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and New Jersey.
Neither of those two teams face the strength of schedule that Montreal does, but the Habs still need them to be dealt a few losses along the way.
The Canadiens are in the endgame now, they can only do so much and hope it pays off. But the biggest key is they have to win their own matchups to have a chance. Otherwise, in a snap of the fingers the playoffs are dust, and the draft lottery looms.