There is absolutely no doubt the Montreal Canadiens are happy to be home.
The Habs play nine of their next 10 games at the Bell Centre, a place that seems to transform them from pushovers to league powers. Montreal has just six regulation losses in 30 home games this year, which is the only reason they currently hold down a playoff spot. The only downside to the Habs basically spending the next three weeks in their own beds is they won’t get a chance to address the fact they’re just 15-18-3 on the road. Teams that win while traveling tend to be the same clubs that excel in the playoffs. Right now, there’s very little evidence to support the notion Montreal can be one of those squads.
What the Canadiens can do is use this advantageous portion of their schedule to get a few things accomplished. The most pressing priority for Montreal is accumulating enough points to lock down one of the top eight seeds in the Eastern Conference. Ten teams have a legitimate shot at making the post-season and if the Canadiens want to avoid the embarrassment of missing the spring dance during their centennial celebration, they better take at least 13 of the 18 points available to them over the course of this home stand. Montreal will be the visitor in four of its final six games this season and needs to punch its post-season ticket before embarking on that stretch.
On an individual level, March will be a crucial month for a player who joined the Canadiens at the trade deadline, winger Alex Tanguay. Yes, Tanguay actually became a Hab during a draft day swap last June, but after missing 28 games with a separated shoulder, he is back in the fold for the most vital part of the season. Tanguay needs to find a rhythm, produce points and further strengthen a power play that already got a shot in the arm when Mathieu Schneider was acquired from Atlanta.
The Canadiens are home, but not for a rest. If they don’t make hay in the next three weeks, the sun could very well set on their playoff chances.
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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