It was February 24 when the Montreal Canadiens made a coaching change and promoted current interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. On February 25, the Canadiens played the Winnipeg Jets for the first time of the season.
They lost that game 6-3, and the roller coaster had several ups and downs from that point. The season series between the two teams will show that the Canadiens won three of the nine games between the two teams, but three others were losses in three-on-three overtime. Montreal’s 3-3-3 record is more even than it would appear looking at the Jets’ record of 6-3-0.
Of course, the regular season doesn’t mean much when it comes to the playoffs, as the first round (for both teams, who defeated rivals that had won the season series) can attest to.
Instead, what the Canadiens — and Ducharme himself — have a chance to do is to come full circle with all the experience they have acquired from that starting point several months ago.
“All the way through, we believed in our group and we believed getting through that adversity would make us stronger and pay off at one point.” Ducharme said on Tuesday. “We’re at that point right now where we think what we went through made our group stronger and now we can keep moving forward.”
The last three games that the Canadiens played against the Maple Leafs, but especially Game 7, may be the best games they have played this season, especially within their team game.
There has been a lot of work done in the last few months, but if the Canadiens want to keep playing this season, they will have to continue to evolve to face a Jets team that is built very differently than the Maple Leafs, much like the Canadiens are built differently than the Edmonton Oilers.
Both the Jets and the Canadiens struggled to close the regular season, but both teams proved that they still had more to give. The goal, remember, is to improve as the season goes on. Now, as they get set to face each other in the second round, they will each try to show that they have not peaked too early.