Push for the Playoffs: Canadiens’ slide opens up race for final North Division spot

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2020-21 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

The Canadiens nearly escaped with two points Monday against the Oilers. After Carey Price exited following the first period, Montreal clung to a 1-0 lead through the game’s first 50 minutes. Then Connor McDavid went to work, scoring a goal and assisting on two others as Edmonton scored four in a 7:32 span to flip the game entirely.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Habs were 7-1-2 to begin the season and things were looking bright. They are 12-14-7 since the beginning of February, find Price now in concussion protocol, won’t have Brendan Gallagher for the remainder of the regular season, and have been shy to use their last non-emergency recall on sniper Cole Caufield.

Since Gallagher’s exit the Canadiens have 12 goals in eight games.

“We have to get into those scoring areas and get our nose dirty,” said captain Shea Weber. “Obviously, the guy on our team that gets his nose dirty the most is out. He’s missing. Other guys are going to have to find a way to step up and fill that job. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of courage.”

Holding the fourth spot in the North Division, Montreal has a points advantage over Calgary and Vancouver entering Wednesday. But the Canucks have won two straight over Toronto following their pause after a COVID-19 outbreak and now have four in a row against the Senators. The Canadiens, meanwhile, play Edmonton again before three consecutive games against the Flames.

The next week in the North is going to be interesting, and the race for the final playoff spot could look a lot different very soon.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (matchups by total points)

EAST DIVISION
1. Capitals vs. 4. Bruins
2. Islanders vs. 3. Penguins

NORTH DIVISION
1. Maple Leafs vs. 4. Canadiens
2. Jets vs. 3. Oilers

WEST DIVISION
1. Golden Knights vs. 4. Coyotes
2. Avalanche vs. 3. Wild

(NOTE: St. Louis currently holds a better points percentage than Arizona — .512 to .489.)

CENTRAL DIVISION
1. Hurricanes vs. 4. Predators
2. Panthers vs. 3. Lightning

(NOTE: Dallas currently holds a better points percentage than Nashville — .556 to .543.)

TODAY’S KEY GAMES
Predators vs. Blackhawks, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN livestream)
Wild vs. Coyotes, 9 p.m. ET
Sharks vs. Golden Knights, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN livestream)
Canadiens vs. Oilers, 10 p.m. ET

WEDNESDAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIO
• The Golden Knights will be the first team to clinch a playoff spot if they earn at least one point against the Sharks.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Penguins – 99.5%
Capitals – 99.1%
Islanders – 98.5%
Bruins – 95.9%
Rangers – 6.8%
Flyers – 0.2%
Devils – 0%
Sabres – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Maple Leafs – 99.99%
Jets – 99.9%
Oilers – 99.6%
Canadiens – 78.2%
Flames – 12.7%
Canucks – 9.7%
Senators – 0%

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Hurricanes – 100%
Panthers – 100%
Lightning – 99.97%
Stars – 59.3%
Predators – 36.6%
Blackhawks – 4.1%
Blue Jackets – 0%
Red Wings – 0%

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Avalanche – 100%
Golden Knights – 100%
Wild – 99.99%
Blues – 39.6%
Coyotes – 29.6%
Kings – 22%
Sharks – 8.8%
Ducks – 0%

draft lottery
Getty Images

DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE (via MoneyPuck)

Sabres – 17.4%
Ducks – 12.1%
Devils – 10.2%
Blue Jackets – 9.8%
Senators – 9.3%
Red Wings – 8.9%
Sharks – 5.3%
Canucks – 4.2%
Kings – 4%
Flames – 3.4%
Coyotes – 3.3%
Blackhawks – 3.2%
Blues – 2.6%
Flyers – 2.6%
Predators – 1.2%

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 74 points
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 63
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 57
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 55
Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs – 55
Brad Marchand, Bruins – 55

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 33 goals
Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche – 26
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 24
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 24
Brad Marchand, Bruins – 24
Alex DeBrincat, Blackhawks – 23

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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