Thursday, May 13, 2010
NOW COMES THE HARD PART
They've knocked off two of the top three teams in their conference and shut down or contained three of the last four NHL scoring champions, but it doesn't get any easier for the Canadiens in their improbable march to the Stanley Cup semifinals. The Habs didn't have to deal with the pressure of expectations against Washington and Pittsburgh because they were such prohibitive underdogs in both series, but their stunning success will saddle them with the burden of their own history the rest of the way. They're no longer middle-of-the-pack eighth seeded cannon fodder for elite opponents. They're now the legendary Montreal Canadiens - 24-time Stanley Cup winners, torch bearers for ancient champions and guardians of a sacred hockey legacy. Every game - every DAY - from this point on will be awash in flashbacks to Montreal championships and dynasties of yesteryear, and comparisons of Mike Cammalleri to Yvan Cournoyer, Jarsoslav Halak to Patrick Roy, P.K. Subban to Chris Chelios and Marc-Andre Bergeron to...um...Gaston Gingras...? Whether it's against Boston or Philadelphia, the Canadiens won't enjoy the underdog role in round three, even if they're sentimental favorites. As the sport's marquee heritage franchise representing a city steeped in hockey tradition, the Canadiens can't go this deep into the dance without being expected to go all the way. You think the first two rounds were tough? The tough part is just beginning.