Canadiens exceeding expectations as they continue to push for playoffs
Coming into this season, the Montreal Canadiens were projected to be near the bottom of the league. After trading their two best goal scorers, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk, everyone wondered where the offence would come from. Yet, the Habs are fighting for a playoff spot in the final stretch of the season.
A few weeks ago, it was a four-team race between the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Canadiens for the two wild card spots. Three of these teams are in the Metropolitan Division, meaning the third seed in the division is up for grabs. One of these teams will have to miss the playoffs.
With the Penguins and Hurricanes surging up the standings, Montreal and Columbus are competing for the final spot. Columbus currently holds the tiebreaker, which is overtime and regulation wins, so Montreal needs to surpass Columbus’s point total.
Montreal still has games against Carolina and Columbus to gain ground, but the Metropolitan teams aren’t making it easier for Montreal to squeeze in. Over the last month of the season, the Metro teams played each other at least once, leaving a possibility for them to hurt each other. However, Montreal has failed multiple times to win games, and take advantage of other teams’ losses.
With a handful of games left, is it worth it for the Habs to be in the playoffs? They have more points than Columbus, but have a more difficult schedule. If they make the playoffs, they would face-off against the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
The odds of Montreal beating Tampa Bay in a series are slim. Is it worth being eliminated in the first round and getting a first-round draft pick between 16th and 19th overall? Or is it better to miss the playoffs for a better draft pick?
As nice as it would be to make the playoffs, the team has come a long way since the beginning of the year, making it a successful Habs season no matter the result.
If they miss the playoffs and don’t win the lottery, they would have the 15th pick. In the current format, any team can win the top three picks. Montreal would have a one per cent chance at the number one pick and a 3.3 per cent chance at a top-three pick, according to Tankathon.
Whether in the playoffs or not, Montreal is a young and tough team to play against, and will only get better with young talent knocking on the NHL’s door.