The anti-clinching scenario (UPDATED)

UPDATE (April 9): With Friday’s Rangers win over the Flyers, the Canadiens’ chances have dropped from over 99 per cent to 97.7 per cent (note to CHOM: Use that in a promo somewhere). Things have happened to make it more likely that the Canadiens will fall out of the playoffs, but it’s still highly unlikely.

All of these things need to happen for the Canadiens to fall to ninth place and miss the playoffs:

  • The Canadiens must lose in regulation Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre
  • The New York Rangers must win in overtime or a shootout against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, giving them two points and the Flyers one
  • The Boston Bruins must get at least a point in their remaining two games

That middle part is the most unlikely. A regulation win by the Rangers would drop the Flyers out of the playoffs. A regulation win by the Flyers and the Rangers don’t make it. An OT/SO win by Philly and the Rangers lose the tiebreaker with the Canadiens. A point for the Flyers makes them tied with Montreal, and they win the tiebreaker with more wins.

The Bruins are in sixth only because they have a game in hand. They still need a point to break the tie after 82 games. Because they lose the tiebreaker against all three other teams, if the Rangers and Flyers both get points, the Bruins need at least a point to make it to the playoffs.

If Montreal gets a point against the Leafs, the Rangers won’t be able to catch the Habs (they could match in points and wins, but the third tiebreaker is the record between the clubs, and the Canadiens won 3 of 4). A win against the Leafs, and the Habs finish no worse than 7th place.

Complicated enough for you? All eight teams have already clinched in the West.

Original post:

Despite losing to the New York Islanders in a shootout, the Canadiens are on the verge of clinching the playoffs with two games remaining. The chances of clinching are about 99 per cent at the moment, and the scenario for them to fall to ninth place is very complicated and precise. All these things need to happen:

  • The Canadiens lose both remaining games (Thursday vs. Carolina, Saturday vs. Maple Leafs) in regulation. A single point in either game by having it tied after 60 minutes would clinch a playoff berth.
  • The New York Rangers win all three of their remaining games (Wednesday vs. Maple Leafs, Friday and Sunday vs. Flyers). Two wins and an OT/SO loss would tie them for points with the Habs, but they’d lose the tiebreaker with one fewer win.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers get at least a point in their remaining two games, both against the Rangers. But since the Rangers need to win both games, that means the Flyers must lose both, but lose one in overtime or a shootout. A single point ties the Habs for points, with the Flyers winning the tiebreaker.
  • The Boston Bruins get at least three points – through wins or overtime/shootout losses – in their remaining three games (Thursday vs. Sabres, Saturday vs. Hurricanes, Sunday vs. Capitals). Two points would tie the Habs, but the Bruins would lose the tiebreaker with fewer wins.

If any of these things doesn’t happen, the Canadiens end the season in no worse than eighth place. I’d say “what are the chances”, but I wouldn’t put any curse of fate beyond this team.

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