Updated: Nov 25, 2020

The Montreal Canadiens entered the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs with a 31-31-9 record, which was the worst record of any team in the playoffs this season. And if the season finished normally, they probably wouldn’t have even been in this situation to begin with.

However, it is the Canadiens who will be advancing further after they shut out the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Qualifying Round.

Longtime Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stopped all 22 shots he faced in the game. Both teams also did not score until the third period, when Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen received a backhanded pass through the blue paint from Canadiens forward Paul Byron and tapped it in past Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry with 4:11 remaining in the third period. Canadiens captain Shea Weber also added an empty net goal in the final minute of play to seal Montreal’s win.

Jarry replaced Penguins starting goaltender Matt Murray for Game 4, after Murray allowed three unanswered goals in Pittsburgh’s Game 3 loss. He stopped 20 of 21 shots in the loss.

While some may be definitely surprised by this defeat, it should not be given that some of the best regular season teams will do as good in the playoffs. In last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, every single division winner was eliminated in the first round, including the President’s Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning, who were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in their series. Additionally, before that series, Columbus had never won a playoff series in their history.

There are many examples of regular season success not translating to the playoffs, and this, along with the Edmonton Oilers’ defeat to the 12th-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, are some of the newest ones.

But these two teams do have something to look forward to. The first overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft will be going to a team that was eliminated in the qualifying round. The top prospect in the draft is Alexis Lafrenière, a star left winger and captain of the Rimouski Océanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

And knowing the Oilers’ luck in last decade’s draft lotteries...

...well, let’s just say that every hockey fan not in Edmonton would most likely have their heads explode if they get the first pick.

Article by Sean Cunningham

Twitter: @Seangc190

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