There are trips that can mark lives, and for the Canadian, the one that is coming will probably not be that.
No, it won’t be that because no one really comes back excited about a detour to Winnipeg or somewhere in a field in North Carolina. On the other hand, this trip will undoubtedly mark the Canadian’s current season.
For what ? Because the results will undoubtedly be decisive for the future.
So, after Saturday night’s victory over the New York Islanders at the Bell Center, where everyone was surprised by this astonishing outcome – Joel Armia, Josh Anderson and Christian Dvorak all scoring on the same night, what are the odds ? –, the Canadian is embarking on the most complicated portion of his 2023-2024 adventure.
After the first stop, Monday evening in Winnipeg, the team in blue, white and red will have to play six other games on the road, including the traditional stop at the Quebecers in Florida, before we turn the pages of the calendar.
If we go back a little, a year ago, the Canadian had chosen option two, and in a very spectacular way at that. As of tossing the equipment bags and sticks on the plane on December 19, 2022, the Montreal club had a 14-15-2 record, which is very similar to the 13-13-4 record that the club displays today.
CH started the trip a year ago with an overtime victory in Arizona, but then the train left the tracks soon enough: after an overtime defeat in Colorado, the club lost the last five games of this trip, including a 9-2 romp at Washington on Dec. 31 to finish the year strong.
While all of Quebec was wondering if the Bye Bye had been good or not (to this day, it’s not very clear), the management of the Canadiens, and the fans no doubt as well, understood very well that the season was finished, and the time had already come to think about the next season.
As of Sunday, three of the seven clubs on the schedule for this trip are among the top 10 teams overall in the National Hockey League, including the Winnipeg Jets, the first on the schedule, who just win their last two matches.
The Canadian will be able to return to his Bell Center on January 4, when the Buffalo Sabers will be visiting. The Canadiens’ leaders will no doubt be able to contemplate the future of things a little better from that evening onwards.
For now, a successful trip would allow the Canadian to stay in the race, and not have to make more difficult decisions. Conversely, an outcome similar to the trip a year ago could lead to other considerations, including with the trade deadline (March 8), which will begin, in the distance, to loom on tip of the nose.
But the Canadian is not there yet. In the immediate future, the sudden awakening of some big guns on Saturday evening at the Bell Center at least allows the team and its fans to have a little more hope.