Les Canadiennes have been the most successful CWHL franchise, winning three Clarkson Cups, but this year they get to experience a home playoff game for the first time.
The Clarkson Cup used to be a tournament held over four days, but this year the league made the decision to allow for the top two teams to host a best-of-three playoff series.
(See our look at the Toronto Furies here)
"So far we haven’t lost one game at home," said Montreal goaltender Charline Labonté. "We always talk about home-ice advantage and I truly believe that our fans have been amazing. We wanted to build that base and they come back. They’re happy with the show that they’re getting and we’re happy they truly believe in us and support us."
"It’s definitely a different experience," said Canadiennes forward Jordanna Peroff. "The past few years when it was in Markham it was a whole week experience and you’re immersed in it but now we have a playoff series and we’ve never really had that before so that will be interesting and it’s decided in one weekend if we’ll be going to Ottawa so the pressure is a bit different."
Montreal goes into the series as the favourite, having beat Toronto in all six meetings this season. However, they know better than to take this Toronto team lightly. In 2014, Montreal finished first in the league and had one final round-robin game for a berth in the championship against fourth-placed Toronto. They lost 2-1 in a shootout. Nine players on Les Canadiennes roster played in that game, including Peroff who was with Toronto at the time.
It's a different format now, but Les Canadiennes know what they are in for.
"It’s playoff time," said Labonté. "Anything is possible and I truly believe that. Maybe they’ve struggled a little bit but they have players that can make a difference. [Goaltender Christina] Kessler can stand on her head, [Natalie] Spooner can score many goals they have good players that have been there. They have a good leadership group. Playoff time is a different season and you really have to show up. We can’t take things lightly at all. They’re going to be ready for sure."
"They’re a kind of team that maybe in the wins and losses it doesn’t seem like they’ve had as much success but they’re definitely a team that has that type of ability to come out and put out a great game and beat us," said Julie Chu. "We want to make sure every time we step on the ice we’re going to be diligent. We want to make sure we’re ready to play [this] weekend and take it one game at a time for a chance to win a Clarkson Cup which to us is so important."
"They’re going to come out hard for sure," said Marie-Philip Poulin. "I think we have to be ready. This season’s over, now it’s playoff time. Anything can happen."
The series gets underway tonight at 6:45 p.m. at the Etienne-Desmarteau Arena. You can get your tickets here. If you are unable to attend the games, the CWHL also has a playoff streaming package available for 10$ here.
John Bower and EOTP's Robyn Flynn will be on the call.