These Montreal Canadiens simply aren’t willing to be forgotten in the annals of hockey history. After forcing a Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on a late Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau game-winner, they’ve at least guaranteed they won’t be. However, instead of a mere footnote, they’d prefer an entire chapter be written on them instead.
First Time in Canadiens Franchise History
Eleven times the Canadiens as a franchise have been down 3-0 in a series. Never before have they gotten this far in a comeback attempt. So, yeah, kudos to them and all that, but they need only look back to last round to realize it means very little in the grand scheme of things.
The Ottawa Senators found themselves in exactly the same predicament against Montreal, at one point down 3-0, only to earn four-goal and one-goal victories en route to an eventual decisive Game 6. The Habs and their fans are obviously hoping for a different outcome (well, with Montreal still winning).
It’s all almost damn near Oedipal, one might say. Granted, that “one” is likely not an expert in psychology, but there must be something in there somewhere about feeling the need to overtake your father, right?
Really, forget a mere chapter. This right here might merit an entire thesis… that is if the Canadiens first join the nine other NHL teams to force a Game 7 after being down 3-0 and then the just four to complete the reverse sweep.
Sure, the Los Angeles Kings came back from three down only last season. Logically speaking, the league isn’t due for another for some time, especially with the Philadelphia Flyers accomplishing the rare feat in 2010. But that’s all in the domain of probability and statistics, how on paper Montreal is doomed, pure and simple. From the start of the series, though, the Canadiens have been throwing paper to the wind.
Canadiens vs. Lightning
While the Canadiens finished ahead of the Lightning in the standings, they didn’t beat them once during the regular season (0-4-1). They hadn’t beaten 6’7” starter Ben Bishop in regulation in over two years. They regularly got embarrassed (outscored 21-8, including a 7-1 loss early in the season) and outshot (191-120 overall) by a team that was among the league leaders in possession.
Yet, to suggest Montreal didn’t have a shot at all entering in this series would have been ignorant… In regard to how much can change in the playoffs, how the Habs, despite being a similar situation last season, losing three of four to the Lightning and getting outshot in each contest, were able to turn the tables on Tampa in their first-round series last spring.
True, the Canadiens had the benefit of facing backup (or, as we know him today, the best goalie currently on the Buffalo Sabres) Anders Lindback. But how do you then explain Montreal outshooting Tampa in three of the four first-round games and 138-104 overall? Just like they’ve been doing this series?
Before Saturday night’s third period, during which the Lightning outshot the Canadiens 10-9, they had been outshot themselves in nine consecutive periods. Tampa has been outshot in each single game in this series and 173-127 overall. Needless to say, the optics of Tampa’s at-one-time 3-0 series lead were very misleading.
Obviously, a series is about more than shots on goal. But any suggestion that Tampa had been dominating Montreal (other than in the 6-2 Game 2) would have been uneducated at best.
If the world were fair and final scores were based solely on effort, this series could realistically be 3-2 for Montreal, if not over altogether with the Habs heading to the Eastern Conference Final for the second consecutive season right now. But it’s not, and other factors enter into the equation.
Instead it’s 3-2 Tampa, with the series heading back down South for Game 6. It may as well be a stand-alone game, because that’s the only chance at success Montreal has, to take it one at a time and not look at the bigger picture.
That’s why any so-called momentum in this series is non-existent. The pressure that many might argue is all on Tampa now? It isn’t. Both teams are feeling it. How can they not be? Tampa can’t let this series slip through its fingers. Montreal meanwhile has a place in history on the line.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently writes about all things Habs for THW, with it being a career highlight for him to cover the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.