Are The Habs Truly Guaranteed Playoff-Bound?

Lisa BoychukSenior Analyst IJanuary 5, 2009

Since the beginning of the 2008-2009 NHL season, hockey fans, analysts, and experts have had the predominant assumption that the Montreal Canadiens are a shew-in for the post-season—but are they?

The current standings have Montreal stuck in fourth in the Eastern Conference.  It may be a difficult predicament to get out of.  The Boston Bruins are leading both the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference, with 12 more points than the Habs. 

12 is not too terribly difficult to overcome.  There are still approximately 45 games left in the season for the League, meaning the Habs have a 15 percent chance to take the lead. 

However, the Bruins are showing no signs of slowing down.  Unless they go into a major losing streak—and soon—the probability of the Habs taking the first-overall position will be significantly lower.

Currently tied with Montreal is Philadelphia, with 50 points.  There is only a seven point difference between fourth and eighth. 

The Canadiens are blessed at this moment.  Their nearest threat for inter-division rivals is the Buffalo Sabres, who currently ranks eighth with 43 points (seven behind the Habs).  The next nearest is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who hold the 11th position with 38 points.

Getting the valuable wins are not the only thing that may slow down the chance for the Habs.  The injury bug continues to hit hard.  While Saku Koivu is close to making his return after missing almost a month, the Canadiens are still without their key players in Alex Tanguay and Chris Higgins.  Carey Price also has been seeing many day-to-day injuries himself.

The youth of the team has been showing they have the skill, but they lack the experience.  This makes it most difficult to be victorious when facing clubs full of long-time veterans like the New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils.

With the season basically half complete, and the Habs currently vying for seven-out-of-10 positions in the Eastern Conference rather than the full 10, the future is much less clear. 

This may be a season to remember—but not necessarily for the good.