It’s amazing how a five-game winning streak can turn around an NHL team’s season. Just ask the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs had been struggling since the campaign faced off with seven losses in their first eight game. They were well out of a playoff spot, couldn’t score and possessed a leaky defence. And to make matters worse, there were hundreds of fans dressed up as empty seats for just about every one of their home games in October and November. Their on-ice fortunes have suddenly turned around though with consecutive victories over Buffalo, Columbus, Ottawa and a pair over Detroit, including a 10-1 thumping in Montreal on December 2nd.
After the destruction over the Red Wings, the Canadiens record stood at 13-12-3 with 78 goals scored and 86 against. They had 29 points, were in third place in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference, and were right in the thick of things as far as a postseason spot is concerned. The return of top goaltender Carey Price has surely been the main reason the Habs are now back on the right track. He struggled early in the season and then missed several games due to injury. Price returned to the lineup and shutout the Sabres 3-0 to snap a five-game losing skid and the team hasn’t lost since.
Their current streak obviously won’t last forever, but with Price back between the posts the chances of Montreal making the playoffs have greatly increased. The Habs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since the 1992/93 campaign and it looked like some fans had given up on them last month. The Canadiens started a sellout streak at home at the Bell Centre back on Jan. 8, 2004, but there were noticeably plenty of empty seats at several of their home games earlier this season. The seats may have been sold originally, but third-party ticket sellers such as StubHub were then stuck with them.
This led to the hundreds of empty seats as well as the sale of tickets well below face value, even as low as $30. In addition, the organization reduced the price of tickets for some games that had originally cost more as they were deemed optimum-priced contests. Since there were plenty of empty seats and hundreds available at ticket-reselling agencies the club reduced the price on a few optimum games and charged the “regular” price for the seats. But not only were many Habs’ fans staying away from the games, those who did show up often ended up booing their heroes earlier in the season for their inept play.
With the Canadiens getting it together on the ice recently, the supply and demand of seats for their home games is certainly to improve for the club as well as ticket re-sellers. In an ironic twist, when Montreal drilled Detroit 10-1 at home on December 2nd it came exactly 22 years after the Red Wings beat them 11-1 in Montreal, to hand tie the club’s worst-ever defeat. What fans may remember about that beating the most though, was that it was Patrick Roy’s final game in a Habs’ uniform. He was yanked during the game by head coach Mario Tremblay and traded to Colorado shortly after.