The playoff race in the Eastern Conference is incredibly exciting this season, and frankly it's been a joy to watch. The Bruins are likely to miss the big dance, the Senators have put together a ridiculous run to steal Boston's spot, the Penguins are faltering, and the Red Wings struggled to earn a playoff ticket, clinching their spot with an overtime loss to the Habs last night.
The frenzy at the bottom of the playoff table has a mysterious side-effect; the Habs still don't know who they'll face in the first round. That being said, there are a couple websites that keep an eye on the match up probabilities, and we're going to use them to get a better idea of which team the Canadiens will play.
First off, there's Micah McCurdy's projections over at hockeystats.ca. Knowing Micah's diligent ways, it's safe to assume that these projections are incredibly accurate.
Pittsburgh is the front-runner at the moment, however Detroit, Ottawa, and the Islanders are legitimate possibilities. Unfortunately the teams that are playing musical chairs for the last playoff spots are separated by only three points, which leads to the odds constantly changing. Just two days ago the Habs were well on their way to facing the Red Wings.
By using sportsclubstats.com's projections, we can get a better idea of how the final game will dictate the playoff matchups.
If the Habs win their final game against the Leafs, they'll maintain their heavy odds of facing the Penguins. The same can be said about an overtime or shootout loss. However, if they lose their game, they're likely to be facing the Red Wings in the first round.
As it stands, there's been no word on who will guard the net for the final game for the Habs, but it's likely that Michel Therrien will give his MVP a day off, resulting in a Dustin Tokarski start.
Of course, the Habs don't necessarily control their own destiny, and most of the results in the final games will factor into the first-round picture. If you want to check out the odds for various teams, you can do it via this link.
So there you have it. The Habs are likely to face Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-André Fleury, and the rest of the Penguins. But don't be shocked if they end up facing either the Senators or the Red Wings.
Habs fans will have to rely on scoreboard watching from here on end, however, unlike the teams battling for the last few spots, they'll be doing so from a very comfortable perch.