A thank you letter from the West Island News.
The NHL season is over and yes, the Habs lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. It isn’t a great feeling knowing that you were so close, but not close enough. Seeing the disappointment in the Montreal players’ eyes while Tampa hoisted the Cup was difficult enough, but imagining what could have been had the Habs held on a bit longer made the moment even worse.
With all that being said, I still have the biggest smile when thinking about this team. The sight of Tampa winning is overshadowed by Arturri Lehkonen’s OT winner against Vegas, or listening to Craig Button say that the Habs had no chance against Toronto, only to be forced to eat his words two weeks later. Trust me when I say this. The good outweighs the bad.
This season was a roller coaster ride. To think about all the drama that went down for the Habs in only 56 games is unreal. A hot start that had fans on their feet, followed by a series of losing streaks. Head coach Claude Julien getting replaced Dom Ducharme, who had never coached an NHL team before. The poor play from some top guys. Fans commenting “Trade Price”, “Put Weber on waivers”, and “Danault is terrible” on Instagram after pretty much every loss. This team faced it all this season, but they somehow managed to sneak into the playoffs.
This led to more banter, with virtually everyone closing the book on them. It seemed impossible to beat Toronto, as according to the media, it was “Toronto’s year”. The Habs proved everyone wrong. Then, beating the Jets couldn’t be done because they just came off of sweeping the Oilers. The Habs proved everyone wrong. Then finally, beating the Knights was supposed to be impossible because the Canadiens were in an “easy division” and couldn’t handle the American teams. The Habs proved everyone wrong.
It was also the series of unlikely heroes. Phillip Danault, who was extremely underwhelming in the regular season, held the Rocket Richard trophy winner, Auston Matthews, to just one goal in seven games, as well as Vegas’ captain Mark Stone ending his series with no goals thanks to Danault’s shutdown style. I, myself, was critical of Danault during the regular season, but he proved me wrong, and I think he deserves whatever contract that he asks for in the off-season.
The young guys were all crucial to the Habs’ success as well. Cole Caulfield came into the regular season with a lot of promise, and he delivered. That production translated well in the post-season, as him and Nick Suzuki developed some amazing chemistry. There was also Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who tied Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky for most playoff goals under the age of 21.
And then there was Carey Price. Going into the playoffs, Carey Price was seen as the Habs’ only hope. Unfortunately, a disappointing regular season, followed by injuries, followed by a few poor performances in the AHL led fans to be quite skeptical. Thankfully, Price showed why he is still one of the best goalies in the world, ending the post-season with a .924 save percentage. Although Tampa's Andrei Vasilevskiy deservingly won the Conn Smythe trophy, in my eyes, there was no one more valuable to their team than Carey Price was to Montreal in these playoffs.
Of course, all of this wouldn’t have been possible without Jake Allen. When Price got injured at the end of the season, it was Allen who stepped up as the starter and did an amazing job. He kept us in each game while we were fighting for a spot in the post-season. Without him, I don’t think the Canadiens would have made the playoffs.
After Tampa was awarded the Stanley Cup, a drunken Nikita Kucherov spoke to the media and called out Montreal fans, saying that they “acted like they won the Stanley Cup after game 4”. He continued by saying “Are you kidding me? Their final was last round”. These comments may seem arrogant and classless, but Kucherov is unintentionally giving us fans the biggest compliment we could ask for. The fact that just 3,500 people were loud enough to make it sound like the cup had been won just shows you how passionate this fanbase is.
In the end, the season may be over, but this story will live on forever, and the experience that the young guys got is something that they will use for their entire career. Not many people can say that they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals before their rookie season like Cole Caulfield.
So to every player on this Montreal team, as well as the coaches and staff, the West Island News would like to thank you for an amazing season.