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Dying Hard: NHL Reverse Standings Update — Sample Sizes Edition

Checking in on the worst teams in the NHL this season.

This poor man would rather crawl through an air conditioning duct than déclarer que les bagels de Montréal sont les meilleurs.

The good news about being one of the worst teams in the NHL this year is you get your shot at picking near the top of an incredibly loaded draft where players like Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov and Leo Carlsson could help change the fortune of your entire franchise in an instant.

Going into this season, the plan was for the Chicago Blackhawks to be one of the worst teams in the entire league. Let’s check in on the other teams that make up the bottom five and hope to get their shot at drafting Connor Bedard this summer.

Montreal Canadiens

  • Current Record: 26-34-6, 58 points
  • Last 10 games: 3-5-2
  • Odds at winning the draft lottery: 8.5%

Montreal had three games last week and lost them all: it fell to both the Hurricanes and Rangers in the shootout and lost to the Devils in regulation.

Eh bien, eh bien, si ce n’est pas un petit nouveau dans le quartier (I’m going to drive this French thing into the ground). The Canadiens have lost six in a row and 12 of their last 15. Mix that with a surprisingly competent surge from the Arizona Coyotes and here they are as bottom-five material for the first time since we’ve been doing this.

The story for Montreal lately — and, really, all season — has been injuries.

Forward Cole Caufield and defenseman Arber Xhekaj (one of the coolest stories in the NHL this season) have both already had season-ending surgeries. Brendan Gallagher has only played in 25 games and is out indefinitely. Goaltender Carey Price’s career is probably over. And they have the following lineup regulars currently sitting out or on IR: Joel Armia, Paul Byron, Christian Dvorak, Jake Evans, Sean Monahan, last year’s No. 1 overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky, and noted ear-cupping enthusiast Kirby Dach.

Canadiens, qu’est-ce qui t’a pris si longtemps bébé?

Honestly, I kind of suspected that Montreal would show up on this list a lot earlier but the fact they’ve weathered their injury storm so valiantly speaks a lot to the locker room buy-in on head coach Martin St. Louis (sound familiar?). Either that or he’s got them playing for their lives, as he’s threatened to crush all their heads with his truly frightening and insane thighs.

Upcoming Schedule

The blue, blanc et rouge have four games this week: vs. Colorado at home, then road games at Pittsburgh, at Florida and at Tampa Bay.

Anaheim Ducks

  • Current Record: 22-35-10, 54 points
  • Last 10 games: 5-2-3
  • Odds at winning the draft lottery: 9.5%

Anaheim lost to the Kraken, lost to the Canucks in overtime, beat Calgary in Calgary and then lost to the Predators in overtime on Sunday night.

The Ducks are 2-1-2 since the deadline and giving up 3.1 goals per game in that span, a significant departure from their league-worst 3.99 mark. The Klingberg Effect may be real after all. Their goal differential is still barely in double digits as well, hanging tough at only minus-98.

Doesn’t hurt that Ducks goaltender John Gibson has been on a heater of late, going 4-1-2 in his last seven starts while putting up a .925 save percentage with a 2.62 goals-against average.

Anaheim plays 11 of their remaining 15 games at home and have eight games left against teams that would be in the playoffs.

Upcoming Schedule

The Ducks are in the midst of an eight-game homestand and this week they’ll welcome the Islanders, the Blue Jackets (basement battle!) and the Canucks to Southern California for some good, old-fashioned Anaheim home cooking (Jack in the Box).

Chicago Blackhawks

  • Current Record: 22-38-6, 50 points
  • Last 10 games: 3-6-1
  • Odds at winning the draft lottery: 11.5%

The Hawks dropped all three games of their mini-road trip, losing to the Red Wings, the Panthers and the Lightning.

The Blackhawks are 2-6-1 since Patrick Kane’s last game and 1-3-1 since the deadline, with the Sharks being the only other bottom-five team with a worse win percentage during that span. And yet, somehow, it still feels like they’ve been in just about every game since. Is it wizards? Magic? The magic of the classic 1989 Fred Savage movie The Wizard? The answer is probably even more surprising than that.

Their goaltending tandem of Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock has put up a combined .929 save percentage in that time. They’re being out shot and out chanced at nearly a two-to-one ratio and yet here they are, collecting loser points and being annoyingly competitive. Does anyone have a picture of coach Luke Richardson in shorts (seriously man, look at those things)?

At least us Hawks fans have an exciting night ahead of us on Tuesday in an incredibly weird and depressing way.

Upcoming Schedule

The Blackhawks have three games this week. They’ll start off at the UC against the Bruins, the only team in the NHL to already clinch a playoff spot (who almost did so in record fashion), before they head back out on the road for games in Nashville and Arizona.

San Jose Sharks

  • Current Record: 19-36-12, 50 points
  • Last 10 games: 2-7-1
  • Odds at winning the draft lottery: 13.5%

The Sharks were beaten badly in all three of their games this past week, falling to the Avalanche 6-0, the Blues 4-2, and the Wild 5-2.

San Jose: what happened, man? In the 10 games without Timo Meier the Sharks are 2-7-1. They’re giving up 4.8 goals per game. They have a goal differential of minus-25 (after putting up a minus-39 differential through their first 58 games). And they’ve jumped/gained/lost between five and seven points in the standings on all the other teams currently in the bottom five. They have been, as the kids say, (toilet flushing noise).

Erik Karlsson is still Karlsson-ing, with 11 points (2 G, 9 A) in those same 10 games, and 84 points overall (17 more than the next highest scoring defenseman, Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey). Would have been cool to see him in the playoffs.

Upcoming Schedule

San Jose has three home games this week: they’ll see Columbus, Seattle and the Islanders.

Columbus Blue Jackets

  • Current Record: 20-38-7, 47 points
  • Last 10 games: 3-4-3
  • Odds at winning the draft lottery: 25.5%

The Blue Jackets only had two games last week and they dropped them both, losing to Pittsburgh in overtime and the Blues in regulation.

After trading their top goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to the Kings, the Blue Jackets lost next man up Elvis Merzlikins (whose minus-21.9 goals saved above expected marks him as the third worst goalie in the entire league) as he returned to Latvia for family reasons. Columbus is currently trotting out a goaltending tandem of Michael Hutchinson — who hasn’t started more than 10 games in a non-COVID affected season since 2016-17 — and 23-year-old rookie Daniil Tarasov.

At this point, it’s just another ridiculous development in the perfect storm of tank that has been the Blue Jackets’ season, where it seems like nothing has gone right since they made the franchise’s biggest ever free-agent signing last summer.

The Blue Jackets have 16 games remaining: five at home and 11 on the road. Of those 16 games, 11 of them are against teams currently in the playoff race, which gives them the most difficult remaining strength of schedule for any team in the bottom five. For as bad as the Sharks and Blackhawks will be down the stretch, bumping Columbus from the very bottom might be virtually impossible at this point.

Upcoming Schedule

Columbus has four games this week, all on the road. They start off in San Jose then head to Los Angeles, Anaheim and Las Vegas.