Quality goaltending. Overtime success. Steady defensive play and a well-rounded offensive attack.
There are many similarities between the Canadiens and the 1992-93 Montreal team that was the last Canadian-based squad to win the Stanley Cup.
Both teams had slow starts in the first round before recovering. Postseason win streaks helped build momentum. And star netminders – Patrick Roy in 1993 and Carey Price in 2021 – delivered when games were on the line.
“Leaders really do lead at the best times,” former Canadiens forward Brian Bellows said Tuesday. “As the playoffs went on, we’d get into the semi-finals, we’d get into overtimes, and Patrick would say, ‘Don’t worry boys. Take all the time you need. I won’t let a goal in.’
“When the top guy on your team says that, you really believe it and that gives you the confidence.”
Roy was a force for Montreal that year on a team that won 10 overtime games and dispatched Quebec, Buffalo, the New York Islanders and finally the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings in a five-game final.
Price, meanwhile, has been back to his big-game self after a so-so regular season. He regularly handcuffed the heavily favoured Toronto Maple Leafs in a first-round upset and came through again in a sweep of the Winnipeg Jets.
Montreal has won seven games in a row – four shy of the 1993 Habs’ streak – and will be well-rested for a third-round matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights or the Colorado Avalanche.
“The next round is going to be a big tell-all, I think, because the final four [teams] haven’t played each other all year,” said former Canadiens defenceman Kevin Haller. “So you’ve got a situation where you don’t really know how you measure up until you get into maybe Game 2. They’re going to hit a powerful team no matter what.”
The 1993 Montreal side was 16-4 in the postseason, with 13 games decided by one goal. Vincent Damphousse led the Canadiens with 23 points and Roy had a 2.13 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
“Our system was very defensive, it gave up very little,” Haller said from Calgary. “Our forwards were excellent and were always coming back. We practised D-zone coverage a lot. I think things like that probably gave us a little bit of confidence.
“Any time you get a few of those [OT wins] under your belt in a row, you do feel a little bit better going into the fourth one and the fifth one and the sixth one and so on.”
Kirk Muller, John LeClair and Éric Desjardins also enjoyed strong playoff performances in 1993 on a team that coach Jacques Demers guided to a 48-30-6 record and third-place finish in the Adams Division.
Montreal finished fourth in the North Division standings this year with a 24-21-11 mark. Interim coach Dominique Ducharme’s team has won five of six one-goal games in the playoffs and gone 3-0 in overtime.
Tyler Toffoli, who scored the OT winner to eliminate the Jets, is the team leader with 10 points. Youngster Nick Suzuki and veterans Eric Staal and Corey Perry have also been productive.
The Canadiens’ big four on defence – Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot, Jeff Petry and Joel Edmundson – are all logging big minutes. Montreal’s penalty killers have been in form, leading all playoff teams with a kill rate of 90.3 per cent.
“I do like that they have different guys contributing all the time, which I think is vitally important,” Bellows said from New York. “You’ve got Price who’s similar to Roy, they play a little bit of a different style.
“I think they’re winning by committee, which I think is the best way to do it in the playoffs. Everybody has got to chip in a little bit here.”
Expectations were low for Montreal entering the postseason after an 18th-place-overall finish in the 31-team league. Bellows said now that the Canadiens are armed with momentum, they could be a tough out no matter the opponent.
“It’s one of those things that [former Habs GM] Serge Savard always said: ‘Get a team into the playoffs and you never know what’ll happen.’ ”