The Montreal Canadiens schedule is gruelling as of late, and it’s weighing down on the team. The Habs are tied with four other teams for most games played in the league with 56. With their bye week coming up next week, the league is trying to cram the Montreal Canadiens schedule together.
Montreal Canadiens Schedule Heavy on Team
The past two months of the NHL season have presented the Canadiens with a vigorous schedule. The Habs will have played 29 games from December 13 to February 13 – when their bye week starts – and only the Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, and Buffalo Sabres will have played that many games. That’s an average of 1.14 days between each game for two months. That’s as compact as a Stanley Cup run, and even then teams get some two-day breaks, and if lucky, some days off between series. Why are teams playing a playoff-like schedule in December and January?
Most importantly, the Canadiens will have played eight back-to-back games during that stretch, the most in the league, bar none. Last month alone, the Canadiens played three back-to-backs, one every week to start the New Year. The Canadiens are currently in a six-game, nine-day stretch that features two back-to-backs. Essentially, the Habs have double the amount of games as days off.
The only times the Canadiens had more than a day off between games in the past two months was twice for the Christmas and All-Star break, and again between Saturday-night and Tuesday-night games in January.
It’s clear the Canadiens are starting to get burned out with fatigue. It was especially evident during their recently-broken four-game losing streak in which they scored three goals, and were shut out twice. Veterans like Carey Price, Shea Weber, and Tomas Plekanec looked drained, and don’t look as fresh as they did at the beginning of the season. Then again, those three players participated in the World Cup of Hockey and have been playing high-level hockey since September.
Price really looks like he needs a rest, and hasn’t been playing like a former Hart Trophy winner for some time now. The Canadiens are lucky their offence bailed Price out on Thursday night against the Arizona Coyotes after he let in two very soft goals.
Fatigue Reflects in Stats
Since December 13th, the Canadiens hold a 12-11-4 record. This the fourth-worst record for teams in a playoff position during that period. They also have the eighth-worst goals against, and rank 15th in the league for goals for during the two-month period. Over that stretch they have maintained an incredible power-play percentage at 24.6%, but a horrendous penalty-kill percentage of 75.8%, the worst among all playoff teams.
In contrast to their first two months of the season, when they had a league-best record of 19-6-4, the Canadiens are falling. They were a well-oiled machine then, scoring 91 times and conceding 63. Since December 13, they have scored 71 goals and allowed 77.
However, the Canadiens faced a completely different schedule then. Although they play the same amount of games in the opening two months as the middle two months, there were only three back-to-back games, and two-day breaks followed two of them. There was no Christmas or All-Star break in October and November, so the schedule was more spread out.
The Canadiens aren’t the only ones facing a tough schedule. Eleven teams play more games in the middle-two month stretch than in the first two months. This happens because the league tries to schedule as many games possible before the bye week as they can. What’s the point of a bye week if the NHL tires out the players? In theory it’s a bit counter-productive to the purpose of having a bye week.
The Columbus Blue Jackets look to be in the same boat as the Canadiens. Since the final game of their 16-game win streak on January 4th, the Blue Jackets have played 17 games – one less than the Habs – and have gone 7-9-1. This is the seventh-worst record in the league over the past month, and worst among playoff teams. They are also 4-5-1 in their past 10 and have dropped to third place in the Metropolitan Division. Their bye week is February 20-24. It’s safe to say that they’re experiencing the same schedule-induced regression that the Habs are.
Only the Washington Capitals seem to be excelling with a tough schedule. They play their bye week February 12-16, so they are facing an intense schedule, much like the Habs and Blue Jackets. But in the past two months they’ve played a league-high 28 games and are 21-4-3. That’s why they are first in the NHL right now. But will they be able to sustain this heading into the playoffs?
For the Canadiens, the schedule gets a lot easier after the bye week. They play 24 games in the final two months, with only two back-to-backs, and one is a home-and-away weekend against the Ottawa Senators.
The Montreal Canadiens schedule is heavy now, but with a drop in intensity in the final two months of the season, the Habs should be fresh for a push for Lord Stanley’s Cup.