Talking about the past is a double-edged sword. Some would say talking about it is dwelling on it and preventing you to move forward. Others would say that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Last season after 82 games, one game is all that separated the Montreal Canadiens from the playoffs. Two points could come from anywhere if you look hard enough.
After 74 games, 71 regular season games and three qualifying round games in 2019-20, the Canadiens are once again one game away from the playoffs.
The difference is that this time, they have two chances to get it, and their fate is entirely in their hands.
Perspective is everything, and if, at the beginning of the season the Canadiens were told that they would have two games to win one in order to make the playoffs, they would take it.
The thought of top-10 pick, and chances at a lottery win for more changed the focus from the current goals of the team to the future of the organization. The team that finished so close to the playoffs and ended up with the 15th pick in the draft (which just happened to be Cole Caufield) a distant memory.
If last season was a distant memory, four months away meant that the 2019-20 regular season is also quite distant.
“I didn’t put any focus on the season,” Canadiens forward Paul Byron said after the 4-3 win in game three. “We had three months off from training camp, four months from games. This was a fresh start for our team, a fresh start for everybody. We knew how big of an opportunity this was. We knew where we were in March and to get a chance like this, it doesn’t come around very often.”
Byron’s only previous playoff experience came in 2017 when the Canadiens played the New York Rangers, losing in six games.
“I’m 31, I haven’t played that much playoff hockey. To have this opportunity in front of us, I just wanted to make sure I left everything on the ice.”
His words show the power of the opportunity in front of the Canadiens. Most of the team lived all of the previous summer wondering if they could anything — anything — to get that team into the playoffs. This is a chance to do that.
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is fond of saying that once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. This year there’s a unique step before the actual playoffs, and the team is showing that anything can happen there as well.