Underdogs. A team without a chance. Shouldn’t even be here.
This is a team that fired its coach midway through the season. A team with a starting goalie that played some of the worst hockey of his career. A team with one 20-goal scorer. A team that sat two of its brightest stars in Game 1 against Toronto.
None of that matters now. The Montreal Canadiens have advanced to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1993. If you put money down on that before the season began, you’re lying.
The Canadiens are a proud franchise, one that expected nothing short of a championship every single season. When you hold the record with 24 Stanley Cups, anything less is a waste of time. And for nearly three decades, there’s been nothing to show for. A couple of conference final appearances here and there, but no important hardware. In fact, the Canadiens have spent most of the past decade just fighting to be a contender.
And now they’re off to the Stanley Cup final. Not too shabby for a team that was down 3-1 to the North Division champions from Toronto before winning Game 7 in convincing fashion. They shouldn’t have been able to do that. But they did.
And then they faced off against Winnipeg, a team fresh off of sweeping Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in the opening round. Montreal gave them a taste of their own medicine.
Then it was Vegas, a legit Stanley Cup contender since Day 1. A team that just edged the Presidents’ Trophy winners from Colorado. Montreal didn’t care about the pre-convinced notion that Vegas was the better team, because in the end, they weren’t
The Canadiens have had doubters throughout the past two months, and rightfully so. Montreal finished 18th in the NHL – 16 teams make the post-season. In a normal year, they would have been 10th in the Eastern Conference and fifth in the Atlantic Division – too far out of it to make the playoffs. But with COVID-19 forcing the league to use different division formats this year, the Canadiens ran with it and squeaked in with the final spot in the so-called “weakest division in the league”. Somehow, that didn’t stop them from beating a bunch of NHL heavyweights.
It’s a shame the Bell Centre hasn’t been packed night after night for this incredible run. Any other year and there’d be next to no breathing room in the entire city. Even with a reduced capacity, the building was rocking, but given how hard it was to get to this point, it’s sad not seeing the building having its roof blown night after night.
Canadiens fans have hated the narrative that their favorite team isn’t good enough to be competing for the Stanley Cup. Given every model, stat. etc. from the regular season, expecting a run this good was a fever dream.
But what has actually unfolded is far from a dream – it’s what happens when a team comes together and plays at an incredible level when it matters most. If you make it into the final 16, it doesn’t matter what happened in the regular season. Once the playoffs begin, anything can happen. The Canadiens are living proof.
The Canadiens didn’t get to this point by a fluke. They flatout deserve to be competing for the Stanley Cup. They had an unstoppable penalty kill. They got the elite goaltending they needed. The team’s big guns showed up offensively. The kids are darn alright. The Canadiens don’t care about narratives. They’re here to prove everyone wrong.
The Quest for 25 is still alive.