It also means we have guaranteed ourselves home-ice advantage for at least two rounds of the playoffs, and that we will not be facing Pittsburgh in round 1 or round 2. I think that constitutes good news. The last time Pittsburgh were a top team and we were safe for two rounds, I think we know what happened (thank you Glen Healy).
It's worth noting also that winning the division is no small feat. Consider this:
A) We have not won the division since 1992
B) We have not won the division since realignment from Adams and Patrick division days
C) Since 1992, we have not even placed in the top 2 teams in our division: we were 4 thirds, 7 fourths!!, 2 fifths and 1 sixth (behind even Hartford)
D) Since the 1992 season, every team that has ever been our division has won a division title: Ottawa 4 (1999, 2001, 2003, 2006), Boston 3 (1993, 2002, 2004), Pittsburgh 3 (1994, 1996, 1998), Buffalo 2 (1997, 2007), Quebec 1 (1995), Toronto 1 (2000), and even Carolina (several times since moving)
E) Since 1992, only 7 teams other than the Habs have failed to win a division title – we were in the company of Florida, Islanders, LA, Phoenix, Minnesota, Edmonton, Columbus and Nashville until last night. All those teams but Columbus have at least mustered a second place a few times
Because of our win, Washington's win and Toronto's crumple, we are still picking from a hat on playoff opponents – any one of 8 Eastern teams could still be booking a trip to Montreal Trudeau.
Assuming a 2nd place finish, a look at the standings will tell you our most likely opponents will be Ottawa, Boston or Philadelphia. Of the three, who would we as fans prefer? Who would the players prefer?
Everyone will be quick to say Boston, but I would guard against thinking Boston in the playoffs would be a inept as Boston in the regular season. Quebec owned us in 1992-1993 and even drove in a couple more nails in Games 1 and 2, but we learned and bounced back. I am strangely wary of teams we beat 8 times in the season.
Then there's Philly. We beat them every game too, but somehow it never felt that the Flyers were cursed in some way. It felt like they were slow and beatable. I like the Flyers better as opponents.
Then there's the Sens. You know, since the Sens stopped trying to emulate the 76-77 Canadiens, they have been a different team. Prior to that point, they had beaten us 3 times in 3 games. Since their slip, we have beaten them 3 times in 5 games. We clinched the playoffs against them. We clinched first place against them. In other words, we have done big things in big games against them. I still see the Sens as the worst choice of the three (and bottom half of the 8), but that win last night changed my mind on total avoidance of all things Ottawa in April.
If nothing else, a playoff match-up with the Senators should make for an interesting media encounter. Bloggers like me will also enjoy rebuffing the ignorance of certain reporters:
IT MAKES YOU GO HMMM
The Canadiens really aren't very Canadian, are they? Only five of them were born in one of this country's provinces that doesn't start with a 'Q.' (By comparison, the Senators have 16 of those fellows). While others like to sprinkle their rosters with tough, gritty Western Canadian kids, the Habs have neglected to do so.
Sorry to alarm you Mr. Brennan, but even those players from the provinces beginning with Q are Canadian. In fact, a little history will show you that the particular spelling of the team name (French, not an error like incorrect pluralisation) specifically refers to Canadians from La Belle Province.
Besides that obvious argument, Brennan forgot to note that while teams may typically sprinkle their teams with players from Western Canada, we chose to take the atypical route and beat 26 of those teams (including the Senators). In the very same way, the Habs have been able to show (for the first time in ages) that they don't care who they are facing, they will be able to (at least over 3 or 4 games) pull out a good effort and win.
So, banishing thoughts of "cheating" and strategic losing, opponents be damned, these are the first place Canadiens.