At this point in the season, it’s probably safe to say with all certainty that the Montreal Canadiens are going to be a part of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s just a matter of seeding.
Right now, the Habs occupy to no. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. They have 55 points on the year, leading the division rival Boston Bruins by just a single point for the lead in the Northeast Division. Each team still has 10 games left to try and take home the division title and that second seed, rather than end up in fourth.
The stats are virtually identical. Right now, it’s anybody’s ballgame. Regardless of how things shake out in regard to those two spots, would the Habs simply be better off in taking second in the division to the Bruins and ending up with the four seed?
If the standings hold as they are right now, which is no guarantee, the Habs would meet the New York Rangers in the first round. The fourth-seeded Bruins would square off against the surprising Toronto Maple Leafs. A couple of Original Six matchups would be great. But is it the matchup the Habs want?
The Leafs are a great story, but there’s little to indicate that they can maintain their success in the postseason. The Rangers on the other hand, the club the Habs are currently slated to meet in the first round, are starting to find their stride and could be a nuisance in the postseason.
Taking the Canadiens’ record against each of the two clubs this season into account, though, the answer as to who would make the better matchup in favor of the Habs in the playoffs isn’t as obvious. They’ve actually had great success against the Blueshirts this year, taking all three contests and outscoring them 9-1 in the process.
The Leafs on the other hand, have proven to be a thorn in the collective side of Montreal. With one tilt left on the season, the Habs have dropped two of three, including a 6-0 shellacking earlier this year. Does that mean much in the postseason? Not necessarily. But it is worth noting.
With either opponent, the Habs would likely be favored. Their outstanding record has earned them that. But it’s not a clear answer as to which seed, and matchup the Habs would be better off with. Especially since there will be at least some sort of shakeup in those bottom three or four teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
At this point, it’s probably easiest for the Habs to just go out, pull away from the Bruins, and lock up the division. Make whoever they meet in the first round, and beyond, come to the Bell Centre, which will be a difficult time for anyone.