With their Game Seven win last night in Pittsburgh, the Montréal Canadiens did a lot more than just eliminate the Penguins and close down Mellon Arena. They also punched their ticket straight to the Stanley Cup Final. That’s right, no matter who wins between Boston and Philly tomorrow night, Montreal will beat them – and endeavour to win its 25th Stanley Cup!
Mon dieu! How can that be? Here’s how. No matter what Boston or Philadelphia throw at them. No matter how they try to shut down Michael Cammalleri. No matter how many pucks they fire at Jaroslav Halak. Montreal is not going to lose. They have come too far to have it end here. And they know that. And the Bruins or Flyers will learn it quickly.
I think we can all agree that this Canadiens’ Stanley Cup run has been one of the most improbable ever. However, it is not the most improbable. That came in 1986. Montreal netminder Patrick Roy was a 20-year old rookie. He had played 47 games that season, but everyone still seemed surprised when second-seeded-in-the-Adams Montreal swept the Boston Bruins in three games. Roy stopped 74 of 80 shots Boston fired his way.
I was lucky enough to cover that series for Hockey Night in Canada and, during Game One at the Montreal Forum, the crowd was going absolutely berserk. In Game Two, Bruins’ head coach Butch Goring replaced goaltender Pat Riggin with 19-year old rookie Bill Ranford. Two rookies goalies – head to head. Boston had no chance.
In the Adams Division Final, against Hartford, Montreal needed a Game-Seven overtime goal by 19-year old rookie Claude Lemieux to advance. Against the Rangers, in the Wales Conference Final, the Roy legend was crystalized with a 13-save performance in overtime of a Game-Three win.
Those Canadiens had a goaltender who was playing out of his mind. So do these Canadiens. Halak is 5-0 in elimination games this spring. Pretty tough to lose when your guy is tossing those numbers. LW Michael Cammalleri has 12 goals, 18 points, in 14 games. The Canadiens have extremely balanced scoring – just like the ’86 version. Very tough for opposing teams to shut down widely balanced scoring. In fact, it’s quite impossible.
And the Candiens have a modicum of that same rookie enthusiasm they had in ’86 with defenceman PK Subban (4 points in 9 games, +3 rating). But here’s the most important thing they have – they wear bleu, blanc et rouge. They are the Montréal Canadiens. They know it’s time to reach another Stanley Cup Final. Do not discount the power that history gives them. Every player gets it…the fans completely get it…and so does head coach Jacques Martin.
So, look for the Canadiens in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. And, good news for San Jose fans, the Sharks will kill ’em.