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Canadiens Tank Watch: Examining NHL Draft Lottery Competition

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Montreal Canadiens draft lottery - HAbs news

There are just 21 games left in the 2023-24 campaign, and things are lining up nicely for the Montreal Canadiens when it comes to their Draft Lottery odds.

As we await the final NHL standings, we’ll keep a close eye on the teams participating in the race to the bottom to give Habs fans a better idea of what to expect down the stretch.

Teams In The Mix

It will be very difficult for the Canadiens to usurp the bottom two spots in the NHL standings from the lowly San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks.

That leaves the Arizona Coyotes, the Ottawa Senators, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Anaheim Ducks as the bottom-feeder teams that are in play.

Admittedly, it would take a stroke of luck to somehow finish below the Ducks in the standings, but for now, we’ll keep them listed just in case the hockey gods decide to shine upon the Habs.

montreal canadiens standings nhl

 

Strengths Of Schedule

As we all know, not all schedules are created equal. In this case, the Canadiens have the most difficult remaining strength of schedule remaining, whereas the teams they’re trying to ‘catch’ have much easier schedules down the stretch.

 

30th Place – Anaheim Ducks – Strength of schedule: 23rd

29th Place – Columbus Blue Jackets – Strength of schedule: 10th

28th Place – Ottawa Senators – Strength of schedule: 15th

27th Place – Arizona Coyotes – Strength of schedule: 19th

26th Place – Montreal Canadiens – Strength of schedule: 1st

 

Recent Form

To get a better idea of how the teams in the mix have performed recently, we’ll take a look at their record in the last 10 games, as well as their shot control (CF%), high-danger scoring chances (HDCF%), expected goals (xGF%), shooting percentage (SH%) and team save percentage (SV%).

This is where things get a little hazy for the Canadiens.

They’ve won just two of their last 10 games, but you could also argue it’s one of their best stretches from a performance standpoint. They’re doing a great job controlling the shots, scoring chances, and expected goals in recent weeks. However, they’ve also stopped receiving some of the best goaltending in the NHL, which has led to a bevy of losses.

In fact, the Canadiens happen to own the 5th best expected goals percentage in the NHL throughout the last 10 games. I don’t want to exaggerate how important it is for a team like the Canadiens to improve their overall process, but it’s definitely a key step for any team in a rebuild.

Montreal has also improved its shooting percentage in the last stretch, placing them in 12th overall in the NHL. If the Habs had produced these types of numbers in the early parts of the season, I would have immediately suggested the team was ready to escape from the bottom of the standings.

All things considered, it’s the ideal situation for a team looking to improve their process while also trying to improve their Draft Lottery odds.

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As for their competition, despite the Habs doing a better job controlling the play than the rest of the bottom-dwellers, you’ll note that goaltending continues to be one of the most important factors in the NHL.

If the Canadiens continue to receive sub-optimal goaltending, their strong play is unlikely to result in a late-season surge.

Brass Tacks

Given the Montreal Canadiens have the strongest strength of schedule in the NHL, and their goaltending has taken a nosedive, things are lining up nicely for Kent Hughes’ team.

On that note, I’d suggest their strong play in February is a significant risk to their lottery odds, and could be the determining factor when it comes to dropping further in the standings.

But the Canadiens are not the only team in the mix that has improved their play over the course of the last 10 games.

The Senators, Coyotes, and Blue Jackets are also overachieving recently compared to their season average underlying numbers, while their goaltending results have been similar, if not better, than what we’ve seen from the Canadiens.

It’s shaping up to be an exciting race to the bottom, one that may pay off in spades for the Montreal Canadiens at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft.


All 2024 NHL strength of schedule information via Tankathon.