The Montreal Canadiens are trying to get back into their Stanley Cup Final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and in the process do something that only one team has done in Stanley Cup Final history.
The odds are that they will not overcome their 3-0 deficit, but the Canadiens players haven’t quite given up hope of doing that, even if almost everyone else has. What they can do is prove to everybody, and perhaps even themselves, that they do belong here.
The series isn’t as lopsided as the goals scored, or the series score itself, shows. Tampa Bay has been the better team for most of the series, yes. But Montreal was dominant in Game 2 but they couldn’t capitalize on their chances. Tampa’s did on theirs, on the backs of Canadiens mistakes.
As interim head coach Dominique Ducharme said, they have paid for their mistakes this series in cash.
Like it was in the regular season, some of that could just be down to being worn down, although most players and the coach both scoff at the fact that energy has anything to do with it. Maybe they are just overwhelmed by the moment, a sad reality that you get this far and can’t get your game together when it matters most.
Maybe it’s simply that Tampa Bay is too good.
The Canadiens are not giving up, as unlikely as a comeback looks right now. When Jeff Petry was asked whether he wanted to stop the Lightning from winning the Cup in Montreal, he said he wanted to stop them from winning it at all.
Tyler Toffoli was a part of the last NHL team (and one of four in NHL playoff history) to come back from a 0-3 deficit and scored the winning goals in Games 4 and 5. It’s always an unlikely comeback, but having someone who already experienced it in your room makes it less abstract.
It has been a very fun playoff run and the players have at least one game left to once again shift the way we remember this team. The run likely won’t be defined by this series, or even by Game 4, but it is another way for them to change how it ends.
Prior to their Game 5 win against Toronto, they said their goal was just to get to play a game in Montreal. Now, they are saying they just want to get back to Tampa. They can’t win all four games at once.
The Canadiens Stanley Cup cap says “History Awaits”. Let’s see what kind of history will be written.