The Montreal Canadiens became the first team this season to mathematically fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The decisive factor was the Washington Capitals’ 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabers on Friday after a penalty shoot-out. The Canadiens (17-37-10) can at best finish fifth in the Atlantic Division, but that won’t be enough points to get one of the two wildcards in the Eastern Conference. The top three teams from the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions secure direct entry into the playoffs.
The doom was Montreal’s weak start with five losses in a row and eleven bankruptcies from the first 14 games. In the further course of the season, there were further negative series with six, seven and even ten lost matches in a row.
For the Canadiens, the early exit marks a deep fall. Last year they were still in the finals series for the Stanley Cup, in which they drew the short straw after five games against the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is the second time this mishap has happened to Montreal since the NHL’s expansion in 1967. After winning the 1969 Cup, the team finished fifth in the East Division the following season, missing out on the finals.
In order to see better times again in the new season, the Canadiens have made personnel changes in the management level in recent months and installed a new executive vice president of hockey operations in Jeff Gorton and a new general manager in Kent Hughes. Martin St. Louis was hired as an interim coach. He may also get the chance beyond this season to rebuild the team from the gang.