Last season, I selected the number 96 as the safe point – the point at which I would feel the Canadiens had safely made the playoffs.
As it turns out, the Canadiens did make the playoffs and 96 points would have been enough. However, imagine the Habs had beaten the Bruins on two less occasions and the Flyers one less time, instead of the improbable sweeps they performed, and then one less win vs. the collapsing Sens. In that circumstance, the Habs would have had their 96 points, but the Bruins would have been on 98, the Flyers on 97 and the Sens on 96. The Canadiens would have been 8th, and it would not have been breathe easy time at all for that last game in Toronto.
As such, this year I am giving the Habs a further 2-point cushion. Rather, they will give it to me. If (and when) the Canadiens reach 98 points, that will be the point at which I will start looking forward to the playoffs.
Given that the team has played a good few games thus far and look to have three rather dominant lines and two extra-motivated Kostitsyns, I am optimistic that this goal is within their reach.
For the 82 games, the rate of point accumulation would be 1.2 per game to get to 98. So 6 wins out of every 10, or 6 points every 5 games. That kind of hockey is no small feat, but when you factor in points for losing (a la game 1), then it's really just a normal rate of point accrual for a winning team in the NHL.
Considering we all want and expect the team and its young core to take forward steps, then 98 points might not look right. But in my end analysis of this season, I'll be looking at playoff participation and performance in the post-season rather than improvement in regular season performance. If it's 98 points and 3+ playoff round wins, I'll be happier than 110 points and a loss to the Flyers in Round 2.
So, 79 games to go. 93 points to the goal. Go Habs Go.