The Montreal Canadiens became the third team to clinch a playoff berth for this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 5-1 throttling of the Buffalo Sabres. The win also moves the Habs back into the division lead, one point ahead of the idle Boston Bruins for the second seed.
The Canadiens are one of the more surprising stories in the league this year. Following last season that saw them finish dead last in the east, the Habs have rebounded and are years ahead of their organization’s plans to develop a contender. Very little activity at the trade deadline was a good sign for this club. Why mess with success and management has to realize that this year’s success is somewhat surprising given they weren’t expecting to compete for the division title this early. But here we are with around eight games remaining for most clubs the Canadiens will be playing in the postseason and as we’ve been taught from them before, if the ghosts show up at the Bell Centre, this team could be dangerous.
Another pleasant surprise this year has been the New York Islanders. Maybe not so much for the whole year given their less than ideal start, but in their last ten they are 8-1-1 and have won three in a row thanks to a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins. And it was in Boston!
A team that was once the laughing stock of the east, the Islanders have become a model to copy when it comes to revamping and rebuilding your team. John Tavares doesn’t get enough attention in my opinion. He’s one of the top players in the league and the Islanders were wise to build their club around him.
If the Islanders can roll into Boston and beat the big, bad Bruins then what kind of damage could they do in the playoffs? They need to keep playing consistently strong hockey to ensure they punch their ticket to the second season and then once they get in, this team could be a lot of fun to watch.
Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals just keep on winning. The turn around club as they could be called won their sixth straight thanks to a 3-1 victory over their divisional opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes are done this year, losing their seventh straight but the Caps are humming right along and remain two points up on the Jets.
Washington has long been known for choking in the playoffs but quite often those were times when they were the top seed in the east and favored to win it all. If they can sneak in as the number three seed and fly under the radar somewhat, I’d take them as a sleeper in this year’s playoffs.
Keep checking back for more headlines within the headlines tomorrow on the Morning After.