I’ve always been a hockey fan, and specifically a Montreal Canadiens fan, but I was never quite so obsessed as in the early 90s. In 1993 Montreal won the Stanley Cup, their last, and the last for any Canadian team. I remember every game. I could name the entire lineup, forward lines and D pairings included. And while they’ve only won two rounds, the Canadiens’ run in this year’s playoffs is starting to show some parallels.
In round 1 they were underdogs against a top-flight team, Toronto. In 1993, that team was Quebec. Quebec was up two games in the series before Montreal won 4 straight to move on.
Last week, in the second round, they swept Winnipeg, a bit of a surprise opponent after shocking the favoured Oilers. In 1993 they swept Buffalo in the second round, the Sabres having shocked the mighty Bruins in the opening series.
Montreal is riding a hot, seemingly unflappable goalie in Carey Price, much as Patrick Roy was after shaky games in the first series. Philip Danault is doing his best Guy Carbonneau impression, all but dismantling the other team’s top lines. The current team lacks offensive stars the likes of Muller, Damphousse, Bellows, and LeClair, but is rolling four lines.
The similarities get fuzzy now though. In the next round they’ll face Las Vegas, a team which doesn’t bear much resemblance to their 1993 opponent — a New York Islanders team fresh off a shocking upset of the defending two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. But what is familiar is that no one gives Montreal a chance of winning this series. Just like they had no chance against Toronto, and not much of one against Winnipeg.
Frankly, this is all gravy for me. I never expected them to make it out of the first round. Beating Toronto in their first series since 1979, coming back from 3-1 down and sending Leafs fans ever deeper than usual into their annual pit of despair…that’s all I needed.