Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
The Montreal Canadiens have struggled at home in the Stanley Cup playoffs since moving to the Bell (nee Molson) Centre. That hasn’t been evidenced more than in the last two times they have taken 2-0 series leads.
In fact, it is their first 3-0 series lead since the 1992-1993 Conference final when they took a 3-0 lead over the New York Islanders. They also swept the Buffalo Sabres the previous round which was their last sweep. They lost to the Islanders in Game 4 which was the end of a streak of 11 wins in a row before winning the series in five games.
The Canadiens have only had a winning home record in the playoffs once since they won the Stanley Cup in 1993 as well – a 4-3 record in 2007-2008. In fact, you could probably point to that as the reason they have had playoff failures as much as anything else – besides the obvious fact that the teams haven’t been good enough.
Montreal has often made life harder for themselves in the playoffs. In fact, I don’t recall being less stressed while watching a playoff game than I have in Games 2 and 3 of this series. This team is suffocating and playing better than they have in the postseason probably in at least a decade.
The killer instinct is something that had been missing. Too often they sat on one-goal leads, playing the trap in the playoffs – playing not to lose. This year, they keep pushing. They keep forechecking. It’s… odd. This team that had so many flaws in the regular season and right now looks like the best Canadiens team in a long time. It’s the team we all wanted them to be.
The Canadiens might have not won all three games in the past given the exact same variables in the past. This year, things are falling into place. A good bounce here, a favourable call there. Last year, a soccer goal was allowed. This year, incidental contact was called. If those 50/50 calls go your way, you could be well on your way to a playoff run.
So far this postseason, Canadiens fans have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far, so good. And it’s a good place to be – despite the fact that fans really aren’t used to this.