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The Canadiens have no choice but to go for the playoffs

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Montreal has 10 games left, and tanking seems like a fruitless exercise.

Chicago Blackhawks v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The odds of seeing the Montreal Canadiens in this year’s playoffs don’t look good.

Montreal’s chances of making the post-season plummeted after Saturday night’s loss to Chicago, now giving them a 22% chance at making it, according to HockeyViz’s projection.

HockeyViz

The team is playing their worst hockey of the season at the most inopportune time, including losses to non-playoff teams like New Jersey, Chicago, and Florida. The team only mustered one goal in their last two games, and don’t get me started on their power play.

Montreal is three points out of a playoff spot behind Columbus and four behind those bunch of jerks in Carolina.

There’s a growing call among some fans that the Canadiens should tank and play for higher odds in the upcoming NHL draft lottery. The Canadiens probably won’t get the highly-touted Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, but surely a mid-level pick won’t be any help, right? The Canadiens are in a rebuilding year anyway.

The problem with that thinking, however, is the Canadiens are in the endgame now.

The Habs are literally pressed against the glass of the playoff picture, hoping to get inside. Philadelphia and Florida are both several points behind Montreal. While the Panthers are on a four-game winning streak, it would take Herculean efforts for them to pass the Canadiens in the standings. The Flyers need two more wins than Montreal the rest of the way to leap above them.

Not to mention teams like the Sabres and the Rangers are on the verge of playoff elimination, joining the Devils, Red Wings, and Senators on the golf course this summer.

Montreal currently has the best record among non-playoff teams. If the season ended today, they would have a one percent chance of obtaining the number-one pick in this year’s draft lottery. Tankathon.com gives them, currently, a 96.7 per cent chance at the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Anything is possible, but those are terrible odds.

Let’s say Philadelphia and Florida somehow have better records and more points than Montreal before the end of the season, and no one else below them surpasses the Habs. The Canadiens will probably have a two percent chance at Jack Hughes.

With all the other teams playing poorly as well, the Canadiens don’t even have great odds at securing a top-10 pick in this summer’s draft.

If the Canadiens really wanted to give themselves a chance at tanking properly, they wouldn’t have played the style of hockey that gave them success for most of the season. Naturally, it raised expectations for everyone. And Tony Marinaro’s blood pressure.

But that doesn’t mean they should be chastised for going for the playoffs. They are, after all, in the first year of Carey Price’s $84-million deal. Shea Weber isn’t getting any younger or faster. It’s in their best interest to go for it and not waste any more prime years from their key players.

The calls for general manager Marc Bergevin to be fired are slowly resurfacing. But you can’t forget that he made good off-season adds to make his team as competitive as he could. His deadline-day haul won’t win him any favours among the fanbase, however, and will be critiqued if the Habs miss the post-season.

Nate Thompson’s been good at faceoffs, but that’s it. Dale Weise isn’t the same Dale Weise. And while Jordan Weal has been one of the better players for the Canadiens since the deadline, is playing him 19 minutes a recipe for success? Maybe getting a solid backup goalie would have been a great idea. But there’s nothing that can be done now. The players will have to follow Andrew Shaw’s lead and look for improvements on their own.

The Habs are essentially stuck where the are right now. The only thing they can do is throw everything behind those dwindling post-season odds.