MONTREAL – A little “x” can be a big difference between a long summer and a sip of champagne out of a large silver cup.
For the third time in four years, the Canadiens have been invited to the NHL’s annual spring dance, a feat only a few clubs can lay claim to. Since the NHL returned back in 2005-06, only a dozen teams have had extended their seasons as often as the Habs.
Of that group, five have earned a ticket four-years running: the Sharks, Red Wings, Flames, Devils and Rangers. While Dallas and Ottawa will be swapping pucks for golf balls as of Sunday after three straight postseason appearances, the respective fates of the Ducks and Predators have yet to be decided. With three days left on the regular season schedule, the pair could join the “four-in-four” crowd; the duo currently holds the final two berths in the Western Conference.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Maple Leafs, Panthers, Kings and Coyotes will each be watching the playoffs from their couches for a fourth straight season. The Blackhawks declined the invitation to that party in clinching a spot for the first time in six seasons, while the Blues are still in the thick of the race, looking to avoid an early summer after 25 straight postseason appearances from 1979-80 through 2003-04.
With that little “x” now beside their name in the standings, the Canadiens will be around past the regular season for the 77th time in team history, an NHL record. Well back in the rearview mirror in second place sit, the Bruins, their potential first-round opponents, who join the Maple Leafs with 64.Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.comSee also:Playoff tickets on sale Saturday