There’s little denying the Montreal Canadiens aren’t exactly where they want to be right now against the Ottawa Senators. Up 3-2 in their first-round series after losing Game 5 Friday, the Habs may very well be in the process of letting a nearly insurmountable three-game lead slip away.
By the same token, the Habs are probably in a better position than they might have imagined heading in. Ignoring the two consecutive defeats, they likely would have taken the 3-2 lead entering the playoffs last week.
The key to victory may very well rest in putting the past behind them and focusing on the future… just not in the case of these next three series, which can serve as inspiration as the Habs prepare to do battle in Game 6 (Sunday at 6 pm Eastern in Ottawa).
Boston Bruins over Toronto Maple Leafs (2013)
Bear with me (see what I did, there?). Looking back to 2013 may cause some unpleasant thoughts and not just because I’m asking you to look at things from the perspective of the Boston Bruins (but at the expense of the Toronto Maple Leafs).
While the Montreal Canadiens were busy losing their last playoff matchup to the Ottawa Senators in the first round that lockout-shortened season, the Leafs were fighting their way back from a 3-1 deficit against the hated Bruins.
Not only did Toronto force a Game 7, but they had the Bruins dead to rights up three goals in that final and deciding game… in the third period. Everyone knows how that one turned out.
Granted, this particular series doesn’t exactly correspond to the Canadiens circumstances currently (Boston was up 3-1 instead of 3-0)… but who doesn’t start feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, remembering this game (Leafs fans excluded)?
Vancouver Canucks over Chicago Blackhawks (2011)
While the Montreal Canadiens may not be wishing it gets as close as it did for the Vancouver Canucks against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011, they can nevertheless look to their cross-country neighbors for inspiration.
Chicago, down three games in the first round to their at-the-time main rivals, forced a Game 7. In their first two victories of the series they actually outscored Vancouver 12-2 before winning their third straight in overtime.
Up 1-0 in Game 7, the Canucks gave up a shorthanded, game-tying goal with two minutes left to Jonathan Toews only for Alexandre Burrows to win it in overtime.
The Canucks, who enabled the Blackhawks to become the seventh team to force a Game 7 after being down 0-3 at the time, are proof that everything can go sideways, but that not is all lost. The Presidents’ Trophy winners that year, they eventually came within one game of the Cup (before losing to the Bruins).
San Jose Sharks over Colorado Avalanche (2004)
Before they were the most recent victims of a blown 3-0 series lead (last spring, versus the Los Angeles Kings), the San Jose Sharks suffered a near scare just before the 2004-05 lockout.
Indeed, based on recent events, the Sharks may not be the ideal role models for sustained organizational success, but in 2003-04 they found themselves in a similar predicament relative to the Montreal Canadiens now.
Back then, the favored Sharks had earned the ever-dreaded 3-0 series lead over the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. The also-second-seeded Sharks then proceeded to drop the next two in OT, scoring just one goal in the process (sound familiar)? They managed to recover and earned a 3-1 victory in Game 6.
That’s where the parallels should (hopefully) end, though. The Sharks of course, as always, didn’t win the Stanley Cup that year. They immediately proceeded to lose to 4-2 to the fairy-tale Calgary Flames in the Western Conference Final, who in turn lost to heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning in the final.
Let the Flames serve as further proof that the Cinderella Sens aren’t guaranteed a thing.