by PuckStopsHere on 04/08/09 at 01:52 AM ET
Every year it seems one team makes that playoffs but is the weak first round opponent that everyone would like to face. Last year, that team was the Ottawa Senators. Given their slump over the last half of the year, it was no surprise when Pittsburgh beat them 4-0 in the first round. This year the team that best fits that role is the Montreal Canadiens. Since the beginning of 2009, the Canadiens have a 20—24 record (with four regulation tie points). That is 22nd overall in the league in that time period. It is the second worst among presumptive playoff teams (the New York Rangers have actually been worse).
The Montreal Canadiens problems are made worse by recent defensive injuries. This season’s team MVP Andrei Markov is expected to miss three weeks with a knee problem and Mathieu Schneider is out for the season with shoulder surgery. This is a big blow to the Montreal defence. Likely, by the time Markov is ready to play again, Montreal will have been eliminated from the playoffs.
Montreal “tested” their weakened defence against the New York Rangers last night and lost 3-1. Things do not look good in Montreal right now. It is a sad ending to the team’s 100th anniversary.
When the playoff matchups come out, a top seed in the east will likely matchup with Montreal. This is the top seed’s reward for a well done season. They get home ice advantage against a struggling and battered team. It should be a relatively easy ticket to the second round.
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