The Jerusalem Post

Canadiens in familiar spot as longshots


The NHL’s most iconic franchise faced the glitzy new kids on the block Monday night in Las Vegas when the Montreal Canadiens opened their semifinal series with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Montreal has 24 Stanley Cups in its history. The Knights, playing their fourth season in the game-show atmosphere of T-Mobile Arena, have advanced to the semifinals for the third time in its four seasons in their quest to hoist the cup for the first time.

So how much of an edge does Montreal have due to its history?

“The game is still played on the ice with the guys in the locker room,” said Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury who grew up 90 km. outside Montreal as a big fan of the Habs. “It doesn’t matter if you have 24 cups or none. You have to play the game in the moment, in the present, and be ready for that moment, and try to win that game.”

Vegas, which eliminated President’s Trophy

winner Colorado in six games in the second round of the West Division, is a substantia­l betting favorite, which suits Habs coach Dominique Ducharme just fine.

“I personally like to prove people wrong,” Ducharme said, whose team has won seven playoff games in a row.

So far, so good. Montreal, which finished the regular season fourth in the North with just 59 points and a minus-9 goal differenti­al, rallied from a 3-1 deficit to stun No. 1 seed Toronto in the first round and followed that with a four-game sweep of the third-seeded Winnipeg Jets in the second round.

Goaltender Carey Price, who has started all 11 playoff games for the Canadiens, has led the way with a 1.97 goals-against and .935 save percentage and one shutout.

“We expect it to be a hotly-contested series,” said Ducharme. “When you get to the semifinals, you’re facing teams that have good momentum and confidence. It’s expected. That’s the way things are going for the teams that are left. The further you advance, the greater the challenge. We’ll be ready for the challenge.”

Knights coach Peter DeBoer said it would be a mistake to assume Vegas should cruise past Montreal based on regular-season records. Because of the pandemic, the two teams haven’t played since January 2020, when the Canadiens defeated the Knight, 5-4.

“You’re foolish if you look at their record and make a judgment on them,” said DeBoer. “They’ve beaten two very good teams and, really, the last seven games, they’ve been lights out. They’ve gone to another level.

“It’s going to be a great series. You don’t get this far, any team, without being a good team and beating very good teams.” (Reuters)

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