Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Leafs-Habs Meet with Nothing on the Line beyond Draft Lottery Position: Habs-Leafs Play for Pride and Draft Position

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Leafs-Habs Meet with Nothing on the Line beyond Draft Lottery Position: Habs-Leafs Play for Pride and Draft Position

Article excerpt

TORONTO - The only thing the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will be left competing for next week is a good draft position.

That reality cast a shadow over Saturday's regular-season finale between the two traditional rivals at Bell Centre, especially with members of both passionate fanbases hoping for a loss to secure the best position possible in the draft lottery.

The teams themselves were each hoping to finish on a high note and expected the atmosphere to be as good as usual -- despite the stark reality of the standings.

"It's an event," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said Friday. "It doesn't have the lustre obviously, but any time the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens play on a Saturday night, it's an event. It will be highly attended and watched by fans from both hockey clubs and it'll be a national game.

"It's part of the fabric of hockey in Canada."

It might also be one of the most meaningless regular-season games ever played between the franchises. This is just the third time that both teams failed to qualify for the playoffs in the same season -- fourth if you include the Habs and Toronto St. Patricks in 1925-26 -- making Saturday's game about little more than pride.

Montreal needs a victory to avoid registering its lowest point total since 1999. Win or lose, the 30-35-16 Habs are assured of finishing no better than 28th in the NHL's overall standings, guaranteeing themselves a spot in the draft lottery.

A Leafs victory on Saturday could keep them from joining the Canadiens in the group of five teams with a chance to win the No. 1 draft pick. They enter the game in 26th spot and would remain there with a loss.

It's a precarious position for the franchise, with players and coaches looking to put their best foot forward and many fans hoping for better draft position -- and a brighter future.

The Leafs left little doubt of their intentions Thursday by tying a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning with less than three minutes remaining before winning it in overtime on a goal by captain Dion Phaneuf. …

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