The Montreal Canadiens have a few things to work out over their final half-dozen games of the regular season.
The first, and most basic, is collecting enough points to make sure their year doesn’t end when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to Montreal to close out the regular season on April 10. The Habs are in prime position to lock up a post-season berth, but this is not the kind of thing you want to fool around with. Gaining points early will also allow the Canadiens to, ideally, clinch a playoff spot with a couple games remaining in the season, so they can focus on resting any number of their banged-up players as opposed to scrambling for wins over the final days.
Assuming Montreal does qualify for the big spring dance, it will be a decided underdog no matter which top-four Eastern Conference club it draws in the first round. That means the Canadiens will need every aspect of their game in tip-top condition to compete and right now, one important part of their attack is completely out of whack.
The Habs’ power play may rank second overall in the league, but it has struggled mightily of late. The return of Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron – the little man with the big point shot – was expected to cure what ails the man advantage, but so far has done nothing to get things back in order.
Montreal has no hope of bumping a top seed without a decided special teams advantage and getting a power play that’s capable of making a real difference in games is vital.
Speaking of Cammalleri, he made the playoffs for the first time in his NHL career last season with the Calgary Flames and, as Montreal’s top goal-scorer, will need to amp things up for the Canadiens to have any chance this year during his second post-season foray. Cammalleri hasn’t scored in the three games he’s played since returning from a significant knee injury, which isn’t a big deal provided he starts getting back to his old sniper self soon.
With six games remaining on the season, there’s just enough time for Cammalleri – and his team – to ensure all systems are a go when the puck drops for the playoffs.
This article also appeared 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 Thursday and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesday.
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