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I guess the North Division wasn’t so bad after all

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The team from what most dubbed the worst division is the first to make it to the final round.

NHL: Vegas at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Man, this North Division sucks. I mean, obviously the Toronto Maple Leafs are the best, that’s a given. Montreal will definitely be lucky to even win one game against them. Even if they were to win the series then they would face the other absolute best team in the North, the Winnipeg Jets.

Of course winning both series means nothing seeing as how the North is so weak that the Habs might as well have called winning the North ‘the Memorial Cup.’ Surely a powerhouse team like the Vegas Golden Knights will have no trouble swatting this pesky Canadian fly away. Certainly the vaunted jewel of the NHL, the Diamond in the Desert, would have no trouble beating a team whose leading scorer in the series is a 5’7” child.

I mean, truly this Montreal team is terrible. It’s only here because of its goaltending and that boring defence and those troublesome forwards. The only explanation I have for Montreal controlling 50.7% of the expected goals in all situations throughout the series is luck.

In case anyone’s curious, here’s how Natural Stat Trick calculates expected Goals.

You can see the odds of a shot going in based on each region here in the offensive zone. They then adjust for rush chances and rebounds.

I suppose now’s as good a time as any to drop the sarcasm and truly indulge in my elation of being a Montreal Canadiens fan today. They won! Who doesn’t love a cast of misfits? That’s what Vegas was two years ago before they started trading for and signing superstars. Now it’s Montreal that is made up of spare parts.

The leading scorer in this series fell to 15th in the draft because he was too small. The club had a tandem of two centres leading the top six. One was sent to Montreal in a trade for Dale Weiss and Thomas Fleischmann, and the other was sent in a trade for Max Pacioretty.

Not to mention the Habs’ captain. He was supposed to be washed up when he was traded to Montreal five years ago. Last night he logged 26:36 against some of the toughest competition Vegas had to offer. Not only that, he opened the game’s scoring.

Possibly the most impressive thing about this team is that we’re still seeing progression. I’m not sure if this is the coaching system clicking more, or if Nick Suzuki stole Mark Stone’s talent like in the movie Space Jam. But what I do know is that this team looks way better now than it did in its past series. How many times have we said, “that was their best game of the playoffs so far.”

Maybe the reason Montreal keeps getting better is simple: Cole Caufield has been finding his groove and hitting levels I wasn’t sure he’d hit until ... at least his rookie season. In the post-game interview he said, “I just shoot for the back of the net.” Well, that’s about as much an understatement as the often misattributed quote from Michelangelo supposedly saying, “I just cut away the marble that doesn’t look like David.”

Whatever the case is, this has been a team accused, over the years, of playing down to their opponents. Now we’ve learned that they can also play up to them. Now there’s one more test for team that has been perpetually written off since falling to fourth in their division many months ago.