The Montreal Canadiens are eight wins away from capturing the Stanley Cup. One Canadian team was going to make it out of the North Division playoffs. No one expected it would be them. Some of us are a little bummed about it, including me.
I've picked against Montreal in both of its series wins, including predicting that they would lose in six games to the Winnipeg Jets instead of eliminating them in four. My pick, and those of 12 others, were recently immortalized on TikTok by the Canadiens themselves:
I've been accused of having some kind of bias against the city of Montreal, which simply isn't true. In fact, my grandfather lived there for many years. I love any city that can feel like Paris without having to actually go to Paris. Sure, the bagels are hopelessly overrated, but you can get smoked meat and poutine at all hours of the day. I also think one of professional sports' greatest sins was taking away a sure-thing World Series victory from the 1994 Montreal Expos with the players' strike that season.
Je t'aime Montréal!
I've been accused of having some kind of bias against the Canadiens, which simply ... well, it's kind of true. I'm allergic to self-referential aggrandizement, something that bothered me when the Habs entered the seventh year of their centennial anniversary celebration. While I acknowledge the necessity, I loathe their myopic Francophonic hiring practices. They can be a little boring in a league that currently isn't.
But they're not all bad. They've kept Youppi! gainfully employed.
Honestly, my biggest problem with the Canadiens these days is that they're the beneficiary of incredible, unparalleled good fortune that many of their fans refuse to acknowledge, or at least give substantial weight in explaining their postseason success. Witness:
The Toronto Maple Leafs losing John Tavares in the first period of Game 1 after his head collided with the leg of Montreal winger Corey Perry. Like a phantom limb after an amputation, the Leafs won the next three games but then lost two overtime games and mustered a single goal in their Game 7 loss.
After eliminating one team that was missing a star center after Game 1, Montreal -- whose thinnest position was, in fact, down the middle -- watched Winnipeg center Mark Scheifele take himself out of the series on an idiotic hit that injured Jake Evans, which resulted in a four-game suspension. The Jets would last only three more games, their offense adrift without the engine of their top line.
Montreal making the playoffs in the first place. The North Division was awash in mediocrity. The Canadiens were as close to fifth place as they were to third place, and had the worst goal differential (minus-9) of any playoff team this season. Luckily, they had the hapless Calgary Flames, the rebuilding Ottawa Senators and whatever you'd call the 2021 Vancouver Canucks to cushion any fall down the standings. They made the playoffs by default.
But once they got there, they've done everything they've needed to do. They were unwavering against an emotionally fragile Leafs team. They were consistent in their game against a flailing Jets team whom Connor Hellebuyck couldn't carry through another round. Montreal found its identity as others questioned theirs. You have to respect that.
Yeah, I said respect Montreal.
Look, I'm trying. I want to like this team. They're a great story, a true underdog rolling through teams and winning "the right way."
One of the suggested exercises for those seeking a positive mindset is to make a list of the things that make you happy. So, here are 10 reasons to root for Montreal, I guess: