Kathleen Malone Van Dyke
New York Islanders forward John Tavares on Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
At first glance, Tampa has the easier schedule with just four of its remaining eight games against teams currently in the playoffs. The Lightning also have just two road games left.
Delving deeper, though, the Habs, with three games each on the road and at home, might have the edge. Montreal has an aggregate 8-3-4 overall record against its upcoming opponents, which represents a .667 points percentage.
That is pretty impressive stuff and shows the Habs definitely have a good shot at entering the playoffs on a high. But it’s only “pretty” impressive, because the Lightning, meanwhile, boast an 11-5-2 record against their remaining opponents, with exactly the same points percentage.
Where the Habs hold their actual advantage, ironically, lies in the Lightning’s upcoming lackluster competition. Three of the four aforementioned non-playoff teams—the Dallas Stars, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals—are fighting for their playoff lives and do not necessarily constitute easy wins.
In fact, three of their other four opponents—Detroit, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets—are similarly in playoff races of their own and might be just as desperate.
The Habs, their other opponents, obviously have something to fight for as well when the two sides meet Tuesday. Meanwhile, in two fewer games remaining relative to Tampa, they actually play one more team (two total) without any postseason prospects at all.
Considering Montreal’s current high level of play, it may not even matter, though. The Canadiens are stringing victories together like nobody’s business, no matter the opposition.