With a six-point lead in the chase for the final playoff position in the North Division, the Montreal Canadiens remain in control of their fate.
However, with Montreal having dropped three of four games and in a 4-9-0 swoon, its hold on a playoff position is precarious going into Friday’s home game against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Canadiens (21-18-9, 51 points) lost 4-1 at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday to start a four-game homestand, and they are feeling the tension of watching their lead on the Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks dissipate.
“We’re in a playoff position right now, but it’s not easy,” said forward Josh Anderson. “You’ve got to come out and compete for these next eight games. You want to be in the playoffs, you’ve got to deserve to be in the playoffs. We’ve just got to find ways to win.
“I know that some guys aren’t going to have it every night, but you’ve just got to compete and just battle together and get through it together. We have to buy into this together and stick together. And keep being positive. I know we’re going to get through this.”
Both the Canadiens and Flames have eight games remaining. The Canucks are 16 points behind the Jets, but they have 13 games remaining.
Montreal’s clash against the Jets for the ninth and final time this season is a case of two struggling clubs looking to find their form. The Jets (27-19-3, 57 points) are on a season worst five-game losing streak that’s watched them fall to third spot in the division.
The latest loss to Toronto encapsulated Montreal’s woes of late: The Canadiens are not playing with enough consistency, and it’s costing them.
“We showed glimpses,” Montreal’s Nick Suzuki said. “We’ve got to play a full 60 minutes. … Playing like that won’t win us any games, so we’re just worried about ourselves right now and we’ve got to fix what was wrong.”
Winnipeg has won six of eight meetings this season — three in overtime.
The Jets lost a 3-1 home game to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday to end a dreadful homestand in which they lost every game in regulation time and were outscored 21-6. That said, their most recent loss was a better performance than the previous few.
“It was a step in the right direction, but we can’t settle for losing,” goaltender Connor Hellebuyck said. “We’re going to snap out of this, and it’s going to be big, and we’re going to carry that momentum. It’s just a matter of time.
“We’re not scoring as much as we were, but that just means once we start scoring, we’re going to be scoring a lot,” Hellebuyck added. “Playoffs are right around the corner, so if we’re saving all our goals for the playoffs that’s huge. I think you know our team is very offensive. They’re going to come.”
With his team’s next victory, coach Paul Maurice will become just the third coach in NHL history to win 300 games for two organizations. He also reached that mark while guiding the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes. Only Scotty Bowman (Montreal and Detroit) and Joel Quenneville (St. Louis and Chicago) have accomplished that feat.
That milestone, however, is a small item amidst a skid.
“When you go on a slide like this it definitely sucks,” Jets forward Mark Scheifele said. “It’s just a matter of working at it. Come to the rink, being sharp, focusing on working on our game. When you work hard, good things will happen. That’s why I’m confident in this group that good things will happen.”
–Field Level Media