If you took the historical success of the New York Yankees franchise, the continual hubris that Dallas Cowboys fans have despite nearly two decades of mediocrity, and the love that Notre Dame fans have for living in and reminding others of their unparalleled history, then you have a relatively decent idea about how the rest of the NHL, and Canada in particular, views the Montreal Canadiens. Just for good measure, they are the champions of French-Canadians, too. Unfortunately for the rest of our friends up North, Montreal is the team most capable of bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Canada.
Montreal’s name is already engraved on the Stanley Cup 24 times, over double the amount of the second place Detroit Red Wings. The Habs are also the last Canadian team to have its name engraved on the Stanley Cup – they won the title in 1992-1993. Currently, the Habs’ quest to end Canada’s 22-year Cup drought could not be going better; they hold a three-games-to-one lead over the Ottawa Senators and are in prime position for a first-round victory.
Several factors make Montreal a major contender to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. First among them is the goaltending of Carey Price. Price topped all NHL goalies with 44 wins, a 93.3 percent save percentage, and a 1.96 goals against average. He is the media favorite to win the Vezina Trophy, for the NHL’s top goaltender, and the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is given to the league’s most valuable player. Through three games in this year’s playoffs, Price has been phenomenal, saving 94.6 percent of his shots and allowing just 1.67 goals per game.
Montreal is no stranger to riding great goaltending to titles. Their last two championships, in 1985-86 and 1992-93, came with Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy at the helm, and Price’s numbers this year are far superior to Roy’s numbers in those championship seasons.
Anyone who follows hockey is aware that the Canadiens are more than just a hockey team — they are a guaranteed soap opera. Drama does not so much find Montreal as much as Montreal creates drama. The undisputed lead actor of Montreal’s saga is defenseman P.K. Subban. Subban’s latest act was a vicious slash against the Senators’ Mark Stone that got him ejected from game one.
The controversy intensified after the game when Ottawa Head Coach Dave Cameron and other Ottawa players lobbied for Subban’s suspension from the NHL, which never came, and implied that there would be retaliation against the Canadiens’ star in game two. There was no such payback, but Subban has ensured that no love is lost between Montreal and their countrymen in Ottawa.
Fortunately for Montreal, Subban’s play makes any side drama worth tolerating. Subban has come into his own as a scorer and is continually one of the top scoring defensemen in the NHL. In the playoffs, Subban seems to be coming into his own as well. Through three games, Subban has netted one goal and assisted on two others. This builds on his impressive performance last year during the Canadiens’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals, when he totaled 14 playoff points in Montreal’s 17 games.
Though his skills are complemented by other world-class talents like Max Pacioretty and seasoned veteran Andrei Markov, Subban is Montreal’s unquestioned emotional leader. As long as Subban stays within the game, Montreal is a serious threat to take down the President’s Cup Trophy-winning New York Rangers later in the playoffs and claim the Eastern Conference title.
The final major advantage Montreal possesses is its home ice. Consistently one of the loudest venues in the NHL, the Belle Centre’s atmosphere enabled the Canadiens to put together the second-best home record in the East this season. In the past few seasons, Montreal has become well-known for its pregame graphics show, but teams know that traveling to and escaping from Montreal with a victory is extremely difficult. In a best-of-seven series someone is going to have to accomplish that at least once, but doing it twice, which is what will probably be required to beat Montreal in a series, is extremely unlikely, especially with Price in the net. If you were taught to champion the underdog, then rooting for Montreal is a poor choice. The next month or so could be another example of the historically rich getting richer, but if Canada wants the Cup back on its side of the border, then Canadians should place their faith in Montreal.
Michael Ippolito is a sophomore in the College. This is the final appearance of THE WATER COOLER this semester.
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