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Penguins fans and Canadiens fans have differing views on their qualifying series

When it comes to taking a run at the Cup or having a shot at the first overall pick, the two fanbases share differing views on the potential outcome.

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Pittsburgh Penguins v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images

On Tuesday, Corey Pronman and Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic shared an interesting piece (subscription required) weighing the option of winning the Stanley Cup this season against the option of winning the top overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft for all 16 teams taking part in the qualifying around.

In case you forgot, the NHL held its annual draft lottery last month to determine the order for how teams will select at the draft set to be held in October. Usually, the lottery consists just of teams who did not make the playoffs, but due to this season’s format, the lottery also included placeholders for the eight teams who are eliminated during the qualifying round.

In typical NHL fashion it was a placeholder slot that won the lottery, meaning one of the qualifying round losers will be picking number one overall come draft time. We won’t know who the lucky team is until after the qualifying round is completed, but all eight losing sides will have an equal 12.5% chance of winning the top pick, one of which will be either the Penguins or Canadiens.

In their piece over at The Athletic, Pronman and Luszczyszyn rated which option was best for all the teams playing in the qualifying round, using the 12.5% chance of getting the top pick as their baseline.

via The Athletic

Working off the 12.5% number, you can see no qualifying team has better odds than that of winning the Stanley Cup, but three have roughly the same chance of advancing to the Final, including the Penguins. Further down, only an additional four teams have equal or better odds of winning two rounds.

Per Pronman and Luszczyszyn:

What’s clear initially is there are a few teams in the qualifying round that, should they get through, have a reasonable chance to go the distance – Toronto and Pittsburgh especially, with Nashville and Carolina not far behind. After those four, though, you see a lot of longshots to make a run, so the No. 1 pick seems like a much more realistic outcome even if the odds aren’t great.

Pittsburgh for example is twice as likely to win the No. 1 pick if it loses its qualifying round series as it is to win the Stanley Cup if it advances to the first round of the playoffs. For a team like Florida, it has 25 times the chance of winning the first-overall pick as winning the Stanley Cup.

That brings us to the overall point of this piece and what the headline alluded to. As a part of their analysis, Pronman and Luszczyszyn polled fans of the 16 qualifying teams to gauge their thoughts on if they rather their favorite team take a run at the Stanley Cup or lose their qualifying series and take their chances and snagging the top pick.

via The Athletic

In the article, they didn’t reveal how many fans they interviewed per fanbase, just that the sample size varied by team. There is a lot of interesting conclusions you can make from the date above, but focusing in on just the Penguins and Canadiens reveals a stark difference in how the respective fan bases feel about the upcoming series.

For the Penguins, 79% of fan polled want the team to win their qualifying series and move on. Not a real shock that the vast majority of Penguins fans want them to take another run at a Stanley Cup given the aging core and their success on the ice this season. It makes sense fans want them to take as many runs at a title while they are still in position to do so.

As an aside, although well over three quarters of fans want the Penguins to win, the 21% who don’t seems very high for a team in the Penguins position. Perhaps those fans don’t believe this version of the team is capable of making a deep run, but that seems hard to believe given how they performed this season.

To find Montreal on the chart, you have to slide all the way to the bottom where you see that just 9% of the Canadiens fans polled want to see them defeat the Penguins and move on. For a fanbase as rapid as Montreal, this number may seem low, but it probably highlights how many of their fans feel about the current iteration of the franchise.

Even if the Canadiens upset the Penguins, their odds of getting through the next round are slim, so it makes more sense from a long term standpoint to lose this series and take their chances of grabbing the number one pick and select Alex Lafreniere. Clearly many Canadiens fans feel the same way and aren’t shy about saying so.

All in all, this analysis provides some good insight into how different fan bases feel about their favorite teams heading into this one of a kind format that it set to begin next Saturday. For teams who were already in a playoff position before the shutdown, their fan bases want a run at Lord Stanley. For those who are only playing because of the expanded format, their fans believe the greater prize may await them at the draft.