The Montreal Canadiens are going to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993.
Montreal defeated the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2, in Game 6 at home in overtime on Thursday to continue their improbable run.
No Canadian-based team has hoisted the Stanley Cup since Montreal last won in 1993 — though few predicted the Habs to be the last Canadian team standing this year. Ahead of the postseason, Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill listed Montreal at +3500 to win the Cup.
The last time a Canadian team even made the Stanley Cup Final was the 2011 Vancouver Canucks. Before this current 28-year drought, the longest the NHL had gone without awarding a Stanley Cup to a Canadian team was a six year stretch between 1936-41.
The Canadiens — a franchise that’s older than the city of Las Vegas itself — have won an NHL-record 24 Stanley Cups. They will face the winner of Friday’s Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lighting and New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Final, which could begin as soon as Monday.
Closing out Vegas in Game 6 was extra reason for celebration, as the game fell on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, one of Quebec’s biggest holidays.
The Canadiens won three-straight elimination games against the high-powered Maple Leafs in the first round, to complete a stunning comeback. Montreal then swept the Jets in the second round.
Even after reaching the semifinals, the Habs had to overcome obstacles. They missed one of their top defensemen, Jeff Petry, in Game 1. Montreal’s home games at the Bell Center had 3,500 fans while Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena was rocking with nearly 18,000. The Canadiens have also been without their head coach, Dominique Ducharme, the last four games of the series as he is isolating after positive COVID tests.
Assistant coach Luke Richardson ran the bench from Game 3 on in this series; Richardson is technically the interim interim coach, as Ducharme replaced Claude Julien when he was fired in February.
Montreal’s goaltender, Carey Price, was a star in this series — continuing his strong postseason after a less-than-stellar regular season. The Habs 1-3-1 defensive structure completely clogged Vegas in the neutral zone, frustrating forwards who typically generate offense off the rush. Only four different Vegas forwards scored in the series, with only two (Max Pacioretty and Reilly Smith) in the top six. Golden Knights captain Mark Stone was held without a point in the series.
“We were kind of going into this series as underdogs, and they probably thought they were going to have more puck possession and do more stuff on the power play,” Montreal defenseman Erik Gustafsson said Wednesday. “But I think we’ve been on them from Game 1.”
The Canadiens got a boost from their young forwards. There have been 19 goals scored in this postseason by players 21-and-under; 14 of them have been scored by Canadiens. That includes rookie forward Cole Caufield, who led all players with four goals in the Vegas series.