As the only Canadian team to qualify for the 2014 NHL Playoffs, the collective hopes of many of our northern friends now rest with the Canadiens. Les Habitants represent their only chance to see Lord Stanley’s silverware finally reclaimed by its homeland after a two decade tour across America.
Once a perennial powerhouse, the 24-time Stanley Cup Champions have been a shadow of their former consistent selves these past several years.
In fact, the only similarity this lifelong Hartford Whalers fan can think of between the Habs squad that just swept the Lightning and our old Adams Division nemesis ancestors, is the full expectation that they’d receive a key power play late. Of course maybe I’m just psychic. Or to be fair, still chewing on my sour grapes.
Regardless, when Connecticut-native Max Pacioretty capitalized on the call, he instantly propelled Montreal into the 2nd Round. And after a long delay, their reward for that advancement will be a Best of 7 battle with either of two ancient rivals; Boston or Detroit.
Sure, the next series will be tough whoever they draw; but there’s no reason Montreal can’t get past it, too. In addition to Pacioretty, in a contract year talented winger Thomas Vanek is playing his first meaningful games in ages. And Daniel Briere is historically a playoff-scoring wunderkind who could begin erupting with numerous tallies at any moment.
The Canadiens held their own against both the Bruins and Red Wings during the regular season, and then surprisingly swept the higher-seeded Lightning right off the ice and onto vacation.
And as all hockey fans know, the playoffs are a blank slate upon which any result might be written.
So now the eyes of Canada will once again fall upon their treasured island within the Saint Lawrence River for another round of playoff hockey.
From what this American has learned over the years, to Canada winning the Cup is more important than whether the Canadian team to accomplish it is a despised rival of another. (Of course, I still find it hard to believe every Maple Leaf fan subscribes to that theory when that team is Montreal.)
To us here in les Etats-Unis, it’d be nearly unfathomable to imagine, for example, either Yankees or Red Sox fans rooting for the other over the Blue Jays in a playoff series, simply because the Jays hail from Toronto.
Be that as it may, seeing the Canadiens recapture some of their old form is a good thing for both Canadian hockey fans and the NHL.
And while it’s unlikely, who knows? Maybe, just maybe, come June we’ll see a Canadien hoist the cup once again.
Just as long as it’s not that darn Claude Lemieux.