What We Learned From The Montreal Canadiens Competing In the Stanley Cup Final
Montreal Canadiens fans have had all summer to mull over their team’s agonizing defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals. It promised to be one of the greatest underdog tales in recent memory, but the Lightning were ultimately too strong. Yet the Canadiens players still deserve a great deal of credit for continually exceeding expectations throughout the season. Here is what we learned from their run to the Finals:
Canada’s Drought Could End This Season
The Canadiens opened the 2020/21 season as +5000 underdogs to win the Stanley Cup. They were widely expected to endure another year of mediocrity, miss the playoffs and think about how to rebuild. Yet the Habs ripped up the script and defied their underdog status throughout the season. They had to overcome a range of hurdles. They only just about scraped into the playoffs after losing their final five games of the regular season, having finished with the 18th-best record in a 31-team league. They overcame a 3-1 series deficit to edge past the Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round. As the lowest-remaining team from the second round, they had to play against the Golden Knights in the semi-finals, and everyone expected them to be torn apart. Yet they won in six games, becoming the first Canadian team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in a decade. The Habs were bidding to become the first Canadian team to lift the Stanley Cup since 1993, when they defeated the Kings in five games. The Canadian drought has gone on for 28 years – which is remarkable when you consider that the longest previous drought was just six years – but the Canadiens showed that it could be brought to an end at any time, from the unlikeliest of sources. That should give the Maple Leafs, the Oilers, the Jets, the Flames, the Canucks and the Senators hope as they approach the new season.
Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield are Electrifying Forwards
Suzuki and Caulfield blazed a trail of destruction throughout the playoffs. Suzuki joined the franchise in 2018, when he arrived in a trade that sent Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty to Las Vegas, but this was his breakout year. The highlight came in the semi-finals, when the 21-year-old outscored Pacioretty by five points to three as the Habs advanced in six games. Yet Suzuki was also Montreal’s main threat in the Stanley Cup Finals, with two goals and an assist as the Canadiens fell short of glory. Caulfield is just 20 years old, but he played with supreme composure throughout the playoffs. He did not quite live up to the hype in the Finals, as the Habs were largely overwhelmed by a star-studded Lightning team, but the future looks bright for the Canadiens with that duo leading the charge alongside several battle-hardened veterans.
The Habs Still Have the Best Fans in the League
Habs fans celebrated like they had won the Stanley Cup when the team avoided a clean sweep defeat by clinching Game 4 with an OT victory. There was an eruption of uninhibited joy as fans packed out the streets on Montreal to party. Even though their team seemed destined to lose the series, they backed their heroes regardless. There is something deep and tribal about supporting the Habs, linked to a fierce pride in the city of Montréal and the province of Québec. The franchise has one of the world’s best fan cultures, and they will continue to create an intimidating, raucous atmosphere when the Canadiens play at the Bell Centre this season when they have newcomers like Cedric Paquette and Mathieu Perrault to cheer on.