Tankin’ For Dahlin: The Race

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There you have it folks. The last week of activities in the 2017-2018 NHL season is about to start and it’s a six horse race… to the bottom. The grand prize? A Swedish defenseman by the name of Rasmus Dahlin, who is often compared to former Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lindström. All things considered, it’s not a bad prize for finishing near the bottom of the standings for having a season of misery, isn’t it?

As the NHL has released the odds of picking first overall in its draft lottery, teams are now jostling for position in hope to get the better draft picks comes June in Dallas. Teams looking to improve are looking at those odds closely, and all are dreaming of picking first overall and land a franchise player. Those odds are as follows:

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With a week left to the regular season, it has now become a six-teams race to the finish and anyone can get that elusive first overall pick. Here are the NHL standings for mediocrity prior to Friday’s games:

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Individual Teams Schedule Remaining

Let’s take a look at the remaining schedule for those six teams, shall we? In order, from top to bottom…

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With four (4) games remaining, the Detroit Red Wings will be playing three (3) home games and one (1) on the road. Three of the four teams they will be facing are out of the playoffs’ race, with only the Columbus Blue Jackets (3rd in the Metropolitan division) being playoffs’ bound.

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The Montreal Canadiens will finish the season playing five (5) games in eight (8) nights. All but one team (Detroit) are playoffs’ teams and three (3) of those games will be on the road. That’s a tough schedule ahead of Claude Julien‘s team.

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Winners of three consecutive games, the Vancouver Canucks have been playing some better hockey as of late. They will be at home for three (3) more games before finishing the season in Edmonton against the Oilers. Columbus and the Los Angeles Kings are fighting for a playoffs’ spot but both the Arizona Coyotes and the Oilers are out of contention.

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The Ottawa Senators needed overtime to finally end a six-game losing streak last night against the Florida Panthers. That is rather mind-boggling for a team that finished in the final four in last year’s playoffs, and for a team that’s healthy as we speak. It must be full “tank mode” in Ottawa. They have two very winnable games against Detroit and Buffalo, but Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and Boston won’t be a walk in the park for the Sens down the stretch.

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Symbol of mediocrity year after year, the Arizona Coyotes will once again be in the hunt for another good draft year. The St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks occupy the two Wild Card spots in the Western Conference, while the Calgary Flames and the Canucks are out of the race. Two games at home, two on the road for the desert dogs.

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Ah the Buffalo Sabres… every year is supposed to be the year when they get out of the basement and yet, here they are again. Not an easy schedule to end the season either in Buffalo as they will have to square off against the likes of the Nashville Predators, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers (all on the road), with only the Senators as a bit of a reprieve at home.

So here you have it folks. Place your bets and see where the chips land after the dust settles comes April 8th, when it’s all set and done and the final standings are finalized. What will the Habs’ draft odds be when the seasons is all played out? Your guess is as good as mine, but if I were a betting man (which I’m not), I’d say that Marc Bergevin‘s team should finish in the bottom-five in the NHL. Sad and disappointing for sure, but with the team having eight (8) picks in the first four (4) rounds (including four in the second round), and with the possibility of adding one more if the LA Kings make the playoffs, finishing lower means better choices at the draft table… or the possibility of trading up to get an even better one. Try to enjoy this final week folks, as that’s the last you’ll see of this year’s edition of the Canadiens… thank goodness for that! Go Habs Go!

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Mission Accomplished for the Habs

The Montreal Canadiens were facing many questions entering this past weekend of play. The team was searching for goals, particularly secondary scoring, and the Ottawa Senators were dangerously closing in on them for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. The Sens were only one point back of the Canadiens and had a game on hand, and they were going through a good stretch. For many around the NHL, particularly around Ottawa and the Toronto media, it was just a matter of time before they could gloat at the sight of seeing the all-mighty Habs fall off their throne as they did a year ago.

But unfortunately for colour-commentator Garry Galley and the rest of his anti-Habs’ fellow media pundits, Claude Julien and his men had something else in mind. The Canadiens scored seven goals in two games against the Senators and swept the two-game series, creating some much needed space between the two teams. The Canadiens now sit atop the Atlantic Division with a four-point lead over the Sens, who have a game in hand.

Andrew Shaw had a solid weekend for the Habs. (Photo: François Lacasse, NHLI via Getty Images)

Surprisingly enough, this surge of offense came without the help of the first line of Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov, who combined to a single assist in those two games. Secondary scoring, which was the Canadiens’ trademark at the start of the season, was predominant against Ottawa. Phillip Danault (1G – 2A – 3Pts), Andrew Shaw (1G – 2A – 3Pts), Brendan Gallagher (1G – 1A – 2Pts) and Paul Byron (1G – 1A – 2Pts) led the charge for the Canadiens who also received some help from the back end. Shea Weber (0G – 2A – 2Pts), Andrei Markov (0G – 2A – 2Pts), Nathan Beaulieu (1G – 1A – 2Pts) and Jordie Benn (1G – 0A – 1Pt) contributed to the much needed offense.

Carey Price was… Carey Price, stopping 58 of the 62 shots directed at him for a .936 saves percentage, with a few of them coming at key times during the two-games series. He did not allow a goal on the three shots that he faced in the shootout on Saturday.

All in all, it was a statement weekend for the Canadiens who were celebrating each win by listening to Hall and Oates, Private Eyes.

 

This week’s schedule is busy, the Canadiens facing the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, before butting heads against those same Senators on Saturday night. All games will be at the Bell Centre.

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Jordie Benn didn’t see the puck go in on his goal against the Sens. (Photo credit: @MoeninGlory)