Why cheering for Leafs in Round 2 is in Canadiens fans' best interest

May 1 2023, 4:04 pm

It may have been satisfying for Montreal Canadiens fans to watch the heavily favoured Boston Bruins blow a 3-1 series lead and get knocked out in the first round by the Florida Panthers.

Unfortunately for the Habs, though, the Panthers advancing to Round 2 can negatively affect the placement of one of Montreal’s first-round picks in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. In fact, Canadiens fans may be better off cheering for Florida’s opponent in their upcoming series.

That may be easier said than done since the team they’re playing just happens to be the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In order for the Habs faithful to wrap their heads around cheering for their bitter rivals, we must backtrack a little.

In March of 2022, Florida traded a handful of assets, along with their 2023 first-round pick, to Montreal in exchange for defenceman Ben Chiarot. The Panthers were loading up for a big playoff run that year. But the gamble blew up in their faces as Chiarot only suited up for a total of 20 regular season games and 10 playoff games before they were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2.

Chiarot ended up signing with the Detroit Red Wings over the offseason, leaving Florida high and dry.

This year, Florida snuck into the playoffs by a thin margin, finishing fourth in the Atlantic Division. Had they not made it at all, the placement of their first-round pick that Montreal possesses would have landed somewhere between 15 and 16, and would have been decided at the May 8 draft lottery.

But now that they’re in the playoffs, it corresponds to their place in the standings and are locked at 17 ā€” unless they beat Toronto and advance to Round 3. In that case, the pick will move down to somewhere between the 29th and 32nd spot.

As for Montreal’s primary pick, since they finished the season in 28th place league-wide, they have the fifth-best odds (8.5%) at winning the draft lottery and obtaining the first overall pick.

With Round 2 set to begin on Tuesday, Habs fans will have to ask themselves one important question: Would they rather get a better chance at another top prospect or watch the Leafs lose?

Either way, there’s something to look forward to.

Toronto will be hosting Florida for Game 1 on Tuesday, May 2 at 7 pm ET.

Al SciolaAl Sciola

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