It’s not losing, it’s a tactical reduction in point totals.
It might hurt having to let a rival win, but the fact is that beating the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday runs the risk of ruining the draft odds for the Montreal Canadiens.
Walking away with two points could mean moving two spots up the standings, lowering their chances of winning this year’s draft lottery. Meanwhile, a loss could result in them moving down one spot, thus increasing their odds.
If the Canadiens lose and Arizona wins their final game, the Habs could move down to third last where they would have a 33.9% chance at a top three pick. And if Ottawa wins their final two games the Habs will move into second last and have a 38.8% chance at landing in the top three.
After a year like this one, that’s really the best Montreal can hope for.
Had the Habs managed to maintain the 14-game winning streak they had against the Leafs going into the season, then maybe the pride of keeping that going would be worth the lost draft spots.
But the Leafs have beaten the Habs in all three contests this year, including consecutive shutouts in the last two meetings, so the tide has clearly shifted in favour of Toronto.
Losing on Saturday and securing the highest possible draft spot would be the best way of ensuring that this newly competitive Leafs team doesn’t go on their own 14-game win streak against the Habs.
So really it isn’t a loss, just a delayed win.