It’s been almost 30 years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup. Whether it’s because of a curse (Toronto) or a franchise-long rebuild (Winnipeg) or anything in between, it’s been American teams hoisting the Cup since 1993. This year, the plucky Montreal Canadiens seem determined to break that streak. They were the ones to win in 1993, so it would certainly be fitting.
But is plucky enough? Do the Canadiens have what it takes this year to win the Stanley Cup?
Obstacle One: The Golden Knights
Through 3 games, the Canadiens have managed to hang on and even take the series lead. The Knights are not a team that makes any series easy. Take the first game of this series for example. The Knights scored 4 goals from 4 different players. That’s exactly what Vegas is known for; every line contributes.
Goaltending is the other piece to their puzzle. Between Fleury and Lehner, scoring is tough for any opponents. Fleury has been the playoff go-to and currently has a 1.97 GAA. Those are the numbers we all expect from Flower.
Between the goalies and those in front of them, the Knights will not go down without a fight.
Obstacle Two: The Islanders/The Lightning
This series doesn’t necessarily have a clear victor after 3 games. Both teams have played well and have their own strengths that make them difficult to play against.
The last few seasons under Barry Trotz, the Isles have played a shut-down game. Their scoring is modest, their defense is what makes them stand out. Some have called them boring to watch because of it. But, they have 4 full lines capable of scoring as well as minimizing scoring opportunities for the other side. The Killer Line of Bailey, Beauvillier, and Nelson has 34 points in 15 games between the 3 of them.
Between Varlamov and Sorokin, goaltending averages 2.43 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
I feel like I don’t really need to explain Tampa too much because their team is essentially the same as the one they won with last year. Kucherov is inhuman, Point is uncatchable, Stamkos is just as good as he ever was. They really haven’t changed since last year. They’re high speed and high scoring.
Vasilevsky has been the playoff choice; he has started all 14 of their playoff games so far. He has a 2.13 GAA and a .935 save percentage. Yeah, he’s still just as good as he has been for the past 5 years.
There have been some very high-value players added to the Canadiens roster this year. Toffoli led the regular season in points for Montreal and continues to lead the team in playoffs. Corey Perry has not only produced points but has added physicality. Josh Anderson has put up 24 points just in the regular season. And finally, Cole Caufield has 7 points in the playoffs already at 20 years old. Just last year, the Canadiens didn’t seem to produce a lot of offense. This year is a completely different story.
In addition, Carey Price has been playing out of his mind. He seems comfortable and confident in the net once again. He has a 2.10 GAA and a .932 save percentage in the playoffs. He’s won 10 out of the 14 games they’ve played so far, with 1 being a shut-out. This is the Carey Price everyone expects.
Do I expect the Canadiens to actually win the Cup this year? Absolutely not. But, if you have read any of my other pieces, you’ll know that I unabashedly love an underdog. I think the Canadiens have many of the pieces necessary to make it to the finals. Really, the problems are the other teams who are just as well prepared. Playing in the Canadian division this season didn’t necessarily prepare Montreal for the caliber of game the American teams left have played at. That said, I’m very impressed with their play thus far and look forward to more quality games from them.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)
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