The Montreal Canadiens’ playoff chances took a serious hit after a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. It wasn’t for a lack of effort throughout the game, as Montreal outshot, outchanced, and dictated possession against their opponent, but the game of hockey just isn’t fair sometimes.
Montreal had more shot attempts (70-44), scoring chances (39-20) and high-danger opportunities (19-7) than Washington, but one little turnover made all the difference in the end, because it ended up in the Canadiens’ net.
When you put together an effort like the one on Thursday night, more often than not you come away with points, but Montreal didn’t. There’s a slim chance they can squeak in if the Columbus Blue Jackets pull a Hindenburg against bottom-six teams in the Ottawa Senators (well, if they hadn’t traded their ticket) and New York Rangers. The slimmest of the slim.
Montreal also has to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, who has been their boogeyman this year. Even when the Habs have played dominant games, they get done in by a gamebreaking superstar.
If all of those games don’t go their way and the Habs miss the playoffs despite a 43-win, 94-point season, these players shouldn’t be hanging their heads. They defied expectations on a regular basis and laid out the groundwork for the upcoming years.
The Canadiens have done well to defy the odds all year, making it perhaps slightly surprising that they couldn’t pull off a Herculean feat to end the season. It is reasonable to be upset, or feel numb after a strong performance didn’t result in a win, but the process to build a stable franchise with long-term success in mind isn’t decided on just one game. The results over the course of this year show that this team commands the five-on-five play, and with a functional power play they will laugh their way into the post-season in future years.
They have top-tier prospects coming in, a cache of picks in the upcoming draft, and a team that is likely to be nearly fully intact next season. One season of falling just short, when the Canadiens were expected to be well down the order, shouldn’t deter people from believing that this club is for real.