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Pressing question: How will Habs handle carrying Canada’s Cup hopes?

Apr 15, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning Getty Images

One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

The Montreal Canadiens, the most successful franchise in National Hockey League history with 24 Stanley Cup championships, will begin the 2014 playoffs as Canada’s lone postseason entry.

If the notion is true that folks north of the border pin their hopes of the Stanley Cup’s return to a Canadian franchise, then the Habs enter this postseason with the weight of an entire nation on their shoulders. That, of course, is if the notion is true — and there are differing opinions on that.

Do fans across Canada actually and suddenly galvanize behind the one national market remaining in the playoffs?

The Habs, in the historical hockey hotbed of Montreal, might have a long-reaching fan base. But so, too, do other teams in Canada.

Only adding to the intrigue is the fact the Habs are the last Canadian franchise to win a Stanley Cup. That was back in 1993. It’s been a while.

And the odds of that happening again in 2014 are slim, especially with the collapse of the Toronto Maple Leafs down the stretch, the Vancouver Canucks’ fall from grace that began in January and the futility of the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators throughout the season.

In 2013, four Canadian teams — the Canadiens, Leafs, Senators and Canucks — qualified for the post-season.

“It’s a little bit strange, but at the same time, it’s not easy playing in Canadian markets,” said Canadiens’ defenseman Josh Gorges, as per TSN.

“On a lot of teams in the States, there’s nothing more to it than going out and playing the game and getting the two points, whereas a lot of times in Canada, you can’t escape hockey.

“No matter where you go, there’s added, outside things that affect your performance. I think we’ve done a good job here of trying to find that balance, but that could, maybe, be a reason why some Canadian teams haven’t been in there.”

The Habs go into this post-season having won seven of their last 10 games while their first-round foe, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are heading in on a four-game winning streak.

Something has to give, as these two teams battled it out for home ice advantage in the opening round with the Bolts emerging the victors.

As in most any playoff series, goaltending will likely be the key to victory. A healthy Carey Price, who finished the season with a .927 save percentage and backstopped Canada to an Olympic gold medal in Sochi, might be enough to get the Canadiens through to the next round.

There also question marks surrounding the health of Ben Bishop, who was shut down for the remainder of the regular season with an arm injury.

This series begins on Wednesday.

While it’s debatable the Habs might carry the championship hopes and pressure of an entire hockey-mad country, getting out of the first round, something they weren’t able to do as the No. 2 seed a year ago, will be the first challenge.

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

  1. pigeonbutt - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    British Columbian checking in. I’m pretty ambivalent towards Les Habitants, leaning towards liking them because they’re cheeky and get other fans hilariously worked up. As a Canadian I will be paying more attention to them (willingly and unwillingly due to the enhanced media exposure), perhaps even cheering for them if I’m swayed while watching.

    But as a hockey fan, I can’t help but get excited for the competition – guys like Stamkos or the rookie Palat. I can’t help but think how entertaining it would be to see a Boston – Montreal match-up with either edging a game 7 win.

    In the end the distance from anything resembling Montreal fandom out west makes me want to cheer good hockey more than Canadian hockey.

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:29 PM

      For the people in the know, Angus Reid did a national survey and found the Habs were the most popular team in the country by a wide margin. you can google it. the story was carried out west more so than in the east because at the same time the poll confirmed that the leafs were the most hated team in Canada across the country by a solid margin. The Habs were the second most popular team in pretty much every market except Quebec where they were first and in parts of the Maritimes if i recall correctly.

      So people like myself who is a solid Canucks fan, will cheer for the Habs, but i wouldn’t cheer on other Canadian teams necessarily especially one from the city of toronto.

  2. mthor24 - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    It’s a big misconception that Canadians just want a Canadian team to win, screw that. If it’s not my team I want them all to crash and burn, go Blue Jackets.

  3. montrealbbr - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Expect to see a lot more Hab fans once they hoist the cup this year!

  4. blomfeld - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    NO … I DON’T CARE ABOUT THEM !

    As an ardent, sexy and values-driven ‘Canadian’ fan of the SC champion LA Kings, I couldn’t give a crap about Les Habitants … and quite frankly I doubt if anyone else does either who’s living outside of Quebec (aka New France). Just recently, these people ‘again’ had the audacity to bring up the specter of ‘separation’ and the subsequent dismemberment of our beloved Canadian confederation. Therefore it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that ‘that’ and ‘that’ alone would preclude the Canadiens from having any kind of real support outside of La Belle Provence. And trust me, this is not unique to Canada. If Texas for example recently considered seceding from the Union, then I ‘guarantee’ you that the Stars would be hard pressed to find any fans elsewhere in America.

    GO BOLTS !!! … GO TRUDEAU !!! … GO CANADA !!!

    • dueman - Apr 15, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      To say – “Just recently, these people ‘again’ had the audacity to bring up the specter of ‘separation’ and the subsequent dismemberment of our beloved Canadian confederation” – is simply a dumb thing to say Blom. Yes, the minority government that fooled voters to get in a power position, again brought up the idea of sovereignty, and called for a vote. Then, once “again,” the people of Quebec (these people) voted the idea down the toilet by giving the Liberals a MAJORITY government. In doing this, “these people” have loudly proclaimed that they strongly support Canada, and being Canadian.

      That said, I won’t be cheering the Canadiens on, but only because I am a die hard Leafs fan and that would be blasphemy….What you said is simply not (even close to being) true. (and just dumb!)

      • blomfeld - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:44 PM

        “You see, the French haven’t the nature for war. Their Gallic laziness combines with their Latinate voluptuousness with the result that they would rather eat and make love with their faces than fight” …

        Dueman – With all due respect, your remarks are both naive and rather ‘becoming’ of a child. The bottom line is that ‘these’ people (Quebec) have been holding a knife to the throat of dear Canada for decades now and I for one am sick of it ! I say ‘to hell’ with the fact that they’re French and the ‘first’ Europeans to have settled in these parts etc ! Today that means positively nothing, as what about the Indians, Vikings, assorted ‘innocent’ animals and dinosaurs before them ? My own late parents came to this country (Montreal) in the 50′s by boat from ‘difficult’ backgrounds in Europe and they wanted nothing more than to be ‘Canadian’ and have a chance in life. Now today we have people coming here from virtually every corner of the globe looking for a new home home and a shot at hope , much like my own dear parents did back in the mid 50′s. Therefore this idea that the Frenchies are ‘special’ and thus deserving of ‘special’ treatment is for the birds ! Canada is ‘free’ ground from sea to shining sea, where no man is beholden to anything other than the timeless Canadian ideals of decency, tolerance, hard work and patriotism to ‘that’ which binds us together !

        GO CANADA GO !!! … TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER !!!!!!

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      i have to disagree with dueman, just because of him, not because i agree with blomfeld.

      Quebeckers don’t really want to separate. they just want Canada to keep giving them presents to stick around which Canada does, like a guy who keeps trying to woo the girl by giving her more and more goodies while she keeps him at bay… always with the promise of some kind of romantic encounter

      • blomfeld - Apr 15, 2014 at 8:00 PM

        Kaptain America – What you say friend is very true. Nonetheless, I believe that it’s now ‘high’ time that this endless ‘cruelty’ is finally brought to an end ! Yes sir ! I say that we ‘fire up’ our glorious fleet of submarines in the West Edmonton Mall and teach these Frenchies a lesson ‘once and for all’ about being loyal, patriotic and such !

  5. dirt2013 - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    4 Canadians not on a golf course someplace warm.Who knew?

  6. scrouch - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    I don’t think many people who aren’t already Habs fans will cheer for them just because they play for Montreal. I’d actually much rather see a team like Columbus or Detroit do well in the East this year than the Canadiens. I just really don’t like the way they play.

  7. whatswellydoing - Apr 15, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    Why is this same story trotted out each and every year? I’m so tired of it. Why does the media always assume the rest of Canada automatically hops on the bandwagon of the remaining Canadian teams?

    Do you honestly think Leafs fans are going to magically start rooting for the Habs? Or that there would be a situation where Oilers fans would cheer for the Flames? Or the Sens and Leafs?

    Yes, some fans will hop on the bandwagon because of the Canadian angle, but it’s far from a majority, and I’d love to see an end to the whole “Canada’s team” narrative.

    • sportsfaninyyc - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      Exactly!

  8. bsaures - Apr 15, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    The reason all the other teams except for Montreal are terrible has a large part to do with the tone at the top of these organizations:

    Ottawa: The owner is cheap and wont spend to win. He also picks fights with the city all the time

    Toronto: The owners dont care as they are two large corporations that are just in it because its a cash cow.

    Winnipeg- The owner doesnt realize his GM is incompetent.

    Edmonton – Katz only cares about the money and not paying for a arena. They also prefer hiring based on whether you played for them rather than competence.

    Calgary: They were stupid enough to give Burke a job after he butchered the leafs for several years. But hes not the “GM” (does anyone actually believe he will let others make decisions?)

    Vancouver- The owner meddles as well but not in good ways (hiring torts and not firing Gillis)

    Atleast Molson will spend the money, let those who know what they are doing make decisions and not act like a dbag to the fans.

    • dueman - Apr 15, 2014 at 3:52 PM

      I wish I could down vote this a hundred times because it is just so stupid on so many levels!

      • kaptaanamerica - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:37 PM

        i wish i could down vote this a hundred times because it is just stupid on so many levels!

  9. wjarvis - Apr 15, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    This just in, whichever team that wins the cup will have several good Canadian players on it, that will celebrate with the cup in Canada. General Canadian hockey fans may latch on to Canadiens to try to bring the cup back to Canada, but fans of the other Canadian franchises probably are more likely to root against the Canadiens than for them.

    This isn’t the olympics anymore, you root for your team and against their rivals.

    • sportsfaninyyc - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:36 PM

      The best players on every NHL team are Canadian!

  10. drewsylvania - Apr 15, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    Hopefully they’ll choke.

  11. Lupy Nazty Philthy - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    I’m Canadian and I really don’t care how the other Canadian teams do. The cup isn’t a national trophy. There’s Canadians on every team, the cup always finds its way back to Canada.

    When the Leafs are out (which is always) I usually end up following the teams with the best players. This year will be great since there’s so many good 1st round match ups to follow. Bruins vs Wings, Rangers vs Flyers, Hawks vs Blues, Sharks vs Kings are all great rivalries.

    As for Montreal, I’ll be rooting for Yzerman’s Bolts. I hope Stamkos lights ‘em up!

    • thegreatmorpheos - Apr 17, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      You do realize it’s not Montreal’s fault that the Leafsuck don’t you?

      • Hard to BeLeaf - Apr 17, 2014 at 5:40 PM

        Who said it was Montreal’s fault?

        You do realize the world doesn’t revolve around Montreal… don’t you?

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