The Montreal Canadiens clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs one game earlier than they did last season when they defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime Saturday.
The Canadiens have six games left; they had five remaining last season when they clinched following a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 1, 2014.
The season prior to that, coach Michel Therrien's first back behind the Montreal bench, the Canadiens clinched with eight games remaining.
For a franchise that had grown accustomed to scratching and clawing its way into the postseason, this has been a welcome change and one of many signs showing how successful Therrien's tenure has been in his second stint with the Canadiens.
Yet in each of those three seasons, there have been reasons to doubt the Canadiens were for real.
In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Montreal began to slip down the stretch after a surprising start coming off a season when they finished last in the Eastern Conference. There were many reasons to believe the Canadiens would fall back to the pack in a full season; their five-game exit in the first round of the 2013 playoffs did nothing to dispel that argument.
The past two seasons, the Canadiens have had poor underlying numbers that suggested they were a flawed team, but they have nonetheless maintained a lofty perch in the standings and comfortably qualified for postseason play.
The reasons they were able to do so this season closely mirror last season's, with the biggest, most glaring one topping the list each time.