NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is a smart guy. It's not a coincidence that Bettman expanded the postseason from 16 teams to 24 in the wake of the regular season being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bettman wanted to get two of his league's flagship franchises, the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks, into the playoff field. They just so happened to be the last teams in.
Montreal finished the regular season with 71 points, which were the 12th-most in the Eastern Conference. The Habs will play a best-of-5 qualifying playoff series against the No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins. When and where is still to be determined. Montreal is in the running to be one of the NHL's two hub cities, but that's probably not likely considering Quebec has been the hardest-hit province in Canada in terms of COVID-19.
Here are the various Canadiens NHL futures odds from William Hill:
- To win Stanley Cup: +10000 long shots with Chicago
- To win Eastern Conference: +5000 long shots
- To beat Penguins in series: +175 (Pittsburgh -210)
- Season Over-Under record: 33-34-4
The Canadiens are capable of winning any series simply because they have Carey Price in net with the former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner owning a 2.79 goals-against average and .909 save percentage this season with four shutouts. Price was voted as the Best Goaltender in the NHLPA Player Poll.
Montreal allows 3.10 goals per game and scores 2.93. The Habs made a few trades ahead of the February deadline as the front office had waived the white flag on the season.
Tomas Tatar leads the team with 22 goals and 61 points but no other player has more than 47 points. Tatar had been out with a shoulder injury when the season was shut down but will be ready for the playoffs. An argument could be made that it would benefit Montreal more in the long run to lose to Pittsburgh and get into the NHL Draft lottery.
Montreal was 1-2 vs. Pittsburgh in the regular season, with one of the losses in OT. Tatar and Artturi Lehkonen both had three points in the season series. Price was in net for all three, allowing seven goals on 98 shots.
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