The Canadiens have earned at least fourth place in the Eastern Conference with still the possibility of second, depending on a few factors we’ll get into.
Recent history tells us that top seeding and so-called home ice advantage isn’t that much of an advantage in parity world of the “new” NHL. Logic tells us that it will be Chicago against Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup final. But favourites have a habit of dropping by the wayside in recent years. The last conference champion to win the Stanley Cup was Detroit five years ago.
The Canadiens are tied with the Boston Bruins in points but are in fourth place in the Northeast Division because the Bruins have a game in hand. In the eventuality of a tie in points after 48 games, the Canadiens would win the Northeast because of what is called “ROW” tiebreaker; i.e. Regulation and Overtime Wins. (Shootout wins are subtracted from the win total) The Canadiens have 25 non-shootout wins; Boston 24. If somehow the ROW becomes tied, the second tie-breaker is the head to head record and the Canadiens won 3 of 4 meetings against the Bruins this season.
OK. With all of that in mind.
The Canadiens win the Northeast Division and take 2nd seed if…..
….they beat Toronto Saturday in their final game of the season and the Bruins split their final two games. (They play in Philadelphia Saturday and host Ottawa Sunday)
….they lose to Toronto in regulation and Boston loses both of it’s games.
Boston can win second seed ….
……if they take three out of four points against the Flyers and Ottawa no matter what the Canadiens do.
……if they split the weekend games while the Canadiens lose in overtime or a shootout in Toronto.
If the Canadiens finish fourth, chances are they’ll be playing Toronto in the first round but Ottawa is still in that picture. If the Canadiens win the Northeast they’ll play either the Senators, Rangers or Islanders, all of whom go into the final weekend with 54 points.
Still with me?
Toronto can only finish 5th or 6th. The Ottawa Senators, who have been re-energized by the return of Norris trophy winner Erik Karlson to their lineup, can unseat the Leafs under the right circumstances. The Senators are fifth and three points behind Toronto with a game in hand. But, because they are in a four way points tie with the Rangers and Islanders, a lost weekend could sink them to eighth place.
If Toronto is beaten by the Canadiens in regulation time, Ottawa has a chance. They would have to beat Philadelphia at home Saturday night and the Bruins Sunday in Boston. If there’s a tie, Toronto has the ROW tiebreaker 26-20.
Depending on Saturday’s results, that head-to-head Ottawa/Boston meeting Sunday night could decide playoff seeding for as many as six Eastern Conference teams.
….If Ottawa stays in 6th place, they’ll play Washington in the first round. If they move up to fourth they could be playing the Canadiens or Boston. The only potential first round opponents for the Leafs are the Canadiens, Bruins or Washington.
Hockey’s main attraction this weekend will be the out-of-town scoreboard.