“We’re trying to win every game regardless of whether we get booed or we get cheered,” Toronto’s David Steckel said after a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday.
While no one is going to catch Columbus for the worst record in the league, the 29th spot is still up for grabs with the Canadiens and Oilers there with 71 points. Finishing lower means being able to slide into a spot in the draft to land any of Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko, or Alex Galchenyuk.
With the Leafs and Hurricanes both at 75 points with just a handful of games to go and the bottom of the standings being as packed as the top, wins can push you into a lower pick and not being able to get at the top-end talent in this year’s draft class. For teams like the Leafs and Hurricanes who could use elite draft talent to turn things around, winning for pride only hurts the future.
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It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.