It has been 20-years since a Canadian based team has lifted Lord Stanley’s mug. With four Canadian teams qualifying for the postseason, fans north of the boarder are hoping the drought finally comes to an end.
Odds of winning series: 51 per cent
The Canadiens and Ottawa Senators are perhaps the most evenly matched teams in this year’s NHL playoffs. But the Bell Centre is a loud, obnoxious place for opposing teams in the playoffs, and the Habs have home-ice advantage. Given the number of Montreal fans in the Ottawa region, you could argue that’s true of both venues for this series.
Odds of winning Stanley Cup: 11 to 1 (Bodog.net)
That’s a wager only a severely optimistic fan could make. Montreal doesn’t stack up all that well against powerhouses such as Pittsburgh and Chicago. But sports fandom is all about optimism, right?
Last time in playoffs: 2010-11
The Canadiens lost in seven games to arch-rival Boston. They really should have won the series in overtime of the final game, but captain Brian Gionta couldn’t beat Tim Thomas, who made a miracle save on a 2-on-1. The less said about 2011-12, when the Habs finished last in the Eastern Conference, the better.
Last Stanley Cup win: 1993
Two decades of relative futility is not something that sits well with a fan base spoiled by 24 Cups. But they still flock to buy tickets and $10 beers, and the TV viewership numbers for Habs games are still mind-boggling.
How much for scalped tickets?
How much have you got? The face value of a first-round playoff ticket varies from $63 to $271. All the games are sold out, so assume a minimum of triple that amount. Might be easiest to budget the cost of a mortgage payment. Or drive to Ottawa.
Biggest watering hole
Montreal is a city of watering holes, several of which are within heckling distance of the Bell Centre, but only one place has a tile mosaic of the sainted Maurice (Rocket) Richard on the wall behind the bar, and that’s Taverne Normand on Mont-Royal Avenue.
How to recognize a true fan
Dressed in several hundred dollars worth of Habs paraphernalia. Can usually be overheard grumbling to a similarly-attired friend about how the goalie sucks.
Fan-favourite player: Carey Price
They really, truly love the preternaturally calm, photogenic 25-year-old goaltender. Except when they hate him with a venom usually reserved for the recently divorced.
The Habs’ most ardent celebrity fan is Hollywood actor Viggo Mortensen, who famously wore a jersey under the armour he sported for his role as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Other celebs with avowed Habs allegiances: actors William Shatner, Ethan Hawke and Jon Voight, CBC host George Stroumboulopoulos, fighter Georges St-Pierre and chef David MacMillan.
Bulbous mascot-like thing: Youppi
The former Montreal Expos baseball mascot, repurposed with a Habs jersey. For a city with this many creative minds, it verges on unacceptable.
Odds of winning series: 49 per cent
The Senators have lots of crafty veterans and maybe the best coach in the league to help guide them. Now, they just need to prevent Montreal fans from taking their rink over. Club owner Eugene Melnyk is an original thinker, however. He called in a forensics team to investigate whether an Achilles injury to star defenceman Erik Karlsson was deliberately caused, so maybe there’s a cunning plan, er, afoot.
Odds of winning Stanley Cup: 28 to 1 (Bodog.net)
The book makers are not Senators fans, evidently. But strange things can happen in Ottawa, as any political watcher will tell you, so it’s probably best not to count them out entirely.
Last time in playoffs: 2011-12
The Senators very nearly upset the lordly New York Rangers, who had won the conference handily, stretching them to seven games. This is a group of players that knows its way around the postseason. Dangerous.
Last Stanley Cup win: 1927