Montreal Canadiens Could Clinch #1 (Draft Lottery Odds) Tonight!

NEW YORK - JULY 22: The National Hockey League draft balls. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images for NHLI)
NEW YORK - JULY 22: The National Hockey League draft balls. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images for NHLI) /

The Montreal Canadiens take on the New York Rangers tonight in a classic Original Six matchup.

The two historic clubs have headed in different directions this season, and sit at opposite ends of the standings.

The Rangers have battled the Carolina Hurricanes all season for first overall in the Metropolitan Division. A loss to the Canes two nights ago sealed the deal in the division as Carolina clinched first overall. The Rangers are guaranteed home ice advantage in the first round as they will finish as the #2 seed in their division.

Meanwhile, we all know the Canadiens story. They got off to a bad start and it never really got any better. Martin St. Louis showed up after 45 games and breathed some life into the team, at least for 15 games. The team went on a 9-3-3 run shortly after St. Louis arrived behind the bench but it didn’t last as they are on a nine game losing streak right now.

The losing skid has sunk the Habs all the way to the bottom of the NHL standings. They have 51 points after 80 games which puts them on pace for one of the worst NHL seasons in recent memory. Not just worst Canadiens seasons in recent memory, but worst seasons by anyone in a long time.

They are sitting in last place, but just barely. Just ahead of them are the Arizona Coyotes who have 53 points in 80 games. So, they Habs are two points back of second last with two games left to play.

Also, the Canadiens have only won 14 games in regulation while the Coyotes have won 17. Regulation wins are the first tiebreaker in the standings, so that means if the two teams end with the same number of points, the Coyotes would be ranked 31st in the standings, while the Canadiens would sit 32nd.

Being the first team to ever finish 32nd in the NHL stadnings is a dubious distinction if there ever were one in sports. But it is noteworthy.

The only reason it is noteworthy is because the 32nd overall team has the best odds at landing the first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. With a lottery held for the top two picks this season, the Canadiens are not likely to pick first overall no matter where they finish. However, teams can only fall two spots in the draft ranking, so the team that finishes last in the standings would pick third overall at worst.

The probability of ending up with the first pick is just 25.5% for the last place team. The second last place team has a 13.5% chance of ending up with the top pick.

It is better to have a 25.5% chance than a 13.5% chance, but the difference is kind of negligible. The likelihood is still almost 75% that you don’t get the first pick if you are 32nd overall.

That is why teams shouldn’t set out to try and finish last overall at the beginning of a season. But with just two games to go, the Canadiens are just inches away from last place.

Since the Coyotes have the tiebreaker, the Canadiens can need to get three more points than them over the final two games to leapfrog them. That means a regulation loss tonight guarantees the Habs the best odds at the first overall pick. Or, a win but the Coyotes who are taking on the Dallas Stars this evening.

It certainly wasn’t the team’s goal in training camp, but we knew months ago this was a lost season. The best thing to come from a lost season is a first overall pick and the Canadiens could inch loser to that reality tonight.

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