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Montreal Canadiens Are Betting Long Shots for Playoffs



MONTREAL, QC - JULY 02: Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) skates in control with the pcuk during the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Final game 3 between the Tampa Bay Lightning versus the Montreal Canadiens on July 02, 2021, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

The Montreal Canadiens find themselves on the outside looking in of the National Hockey League playoff picture.

But they are closer than they expected to be at this point of the season.

The young, spry Canadiens are 14-13-4 with 32 standings points through 31 games so far this season. That puts them two points behind the Washington Capitals for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Montreal has outperformed a lot of teams with higher expectations through Dec. 18, ranking ahead of the Sidney Crosby led Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tage Thompson led Buffalo Sabres as the halfway point creeps closer and closer.

So, this begs the question: Can the Montreal Canadiens make the playoffs?

They haven’t been the most flashy offensive team to start the year.

Montreal ranks 27th in goals for per game at 2.71 and is led by young guns Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, who each have eight goals and a shade over 20 points. Suzuki leads with 26 points while Caufield has 22.

Mike Matheson has been a surprise on the offensive end, nothing five goals and 21 points in 31 games. He is tied for 14th among NHL defenders in point scoring so far this season.

Montreal has also been having struggles with keeping the puck out of their net, ranking 24th in goals against per game with 3.32.

The Canadiens have done well in front of Samuel Montembeault, who is 7-4-2 with a .911 save percentage and a 2.79 goals-against average.

But the other two? Not so much.

Jake Allen is 4-6-2 with a .904 save percentage and a 3.43 goals-against average while Cayden Primeau is 3-3-0 with a .902 save percentage and a 3.40 goals-against average.

Montreal tried to roll with a three-goaltender rotation but Montembeault has emerged as the favorite to be a consistent starter and earned a contract extension because of it.

But can he lead them there this year?

BonusFinder Canada sports betting odds project the Canadiens to miss the playoffs in 2023-24.

Of all of the Eastern Conference teams, Montreal has the second-worst odds to make the postseason at +2500.

Only the Columbus Blue Jackets have worse odds than the Canadiens at +8000 after starting the year with a 10-17-5 record, which is the worst in the Eastern Conference.

The Ottawa Senators, who recently fired D.J. Smith after an 11-15-0 start, have +400 odds while the Buffalo Sabres, who are 13-16-3, have +450 odds.

Meanwhile, the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins, the last Eastern Conference team behind Montreal, have +110 odds after starting the season 14-13-3.

The thing about the Eastern Conference is that there is a crowded pack ahead of the Canadiens right now.

There are five teams within two points of each other in the race for the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Carolina Hurricanes lead the way with 35 points, the Capitals and Detroit Red Wings have 34 points, and the New Jersey Devils and the Tampa Bay Lightning have 33. 

Montreal is just outside of that mix.

Whether or not the Canadiens make the jump past those teams for a playoff spot – a lot of them having perennial playoff talent – the 2023-24 season is a big step up for the young squad.

Montreal is playing to a level that was not expected of them until much further down the line in their rebuild, and that alone is something to be proud of.

Only time will tell if the young squad has a chance to keep itself in the race further down the stretch.