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I watch the playoffs as a Habs fan and if you’re reading this column, there’s a good chance you do, too.
We see everything through our Habs-centric point of view. After the shocking elimination of the Winnipeg Jets by the St. Louis Blues, Jets coach Paul Maurice said there would be no excuses and all I could think was someone needs to show this to Marc Bergevin.
Looking at the exciting Vegas Golden Knights-San Jose Sharks battle, Habs Nation is mostly interested in the miraculous playoff resurrection of Max Pacioretty, a fellow who was a no-show in his entire post-season career as a Canadien. As of Monday, he was tied as points leader in the playoffs with his Vegas linemate Mark Stone, with 10 points each.
This is a player who had only 10 goals and nine assists during 38 playoffs games with the Habs. He was frequently criticized for not coming to play hard when the going got tough in the Real Season. In particular, he was roasted after that last Canadiens playoff series in 2017. The good guys lost in six games to a middling New York Rangers team and the Habs captain was held to one assist during the series.
Of course you don’t need a PhD in hockey-ology to figure out why Patches has come to life this post-season with his new team — it’s because his centre isn’t David Desharnais! In other words, he is on a line with two elite players in Stone and Paul Stastny.
But the former Habs captain has gone cold in the last two games and has been kept off the scoresheet, so it is most definitely too early to read too much into the Pacioretty story just yet.
There’s also a lot of talk among us Habs fans about another former Canadien, a certain Alexander Radulov, who already has four goals in the first five games of the Dallas Stars-Nashville Predators series. Radulov’s Stars are up 3-2 on the Preds, considered until recently to be a serious contender for the big prize. Dallas can end it for P.K. Subban and the Predators on Monday night. Radu got two goals Saturday in the crucial game that gave Dallas the lead in the series.
A few of us think back to just how great Radulov looked in a Habs jersey in 2016-2017. Remember how much he helped Pacioretty that year? He’d fight like the beast that he is and get the puck back to Patches for the one-timer. But we all know how this story ended. Canadiens GM Bergevin, as is his wont, got into a fight with Radulov in the memorable summer of ’17 when he managed to alienate both Radulov and Andrei Markov.
By far, THE story of these playoffs is the Columbus Blue Jacket’s sweep of the regular-season champs the Tampa Bay Lightning. Us navel-gazing Habs boosters look at that historic series and all we can think is — but for the grace of God, that could have been Montreal sweeping the Bolts. Of course once the drugs wore off, we realized the Habs never would have swept Tampa, that the Blue Jackets are a team tailor-made for the post-season, whereas in the best-case scenario, the Canadiens are a season or two away from that position.
But the biggest obsession in Montreal in these playoffs is the success of “Canada’s team” — #sarcasm! The Toronto Maple Leafs are one game away from winning their first playoff series since 1867. Canadiens fans are split right down the middle on this. Half believe that there is some Canadian law — perhaps the Coach’s Corner Act — that forces everyone in the country to support whatever Canadian team is still in contention. By the process of elimination, that would be the Leafs.
Then there’s the other half that think it’s ridiculous to have to do that. I’ve never subscribed to that you-have-to-back-the-Canuck-team hogwash. I am not supporting the Leafs. I actually like this Leafs team, but I simply couldn’t bear having to deal with the Toronto hockey media mob crowing for years to come if the Leafs go deep in the playoffs.
During the regular season, I watch my weekday games on RDS, but I have been programmed since childhood that one must watch Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays and so once a week I am reminded that our national hockey broadcast is a provincial Leafs-obsessed TV show that makes no pretense about giving a hoot about any of the other Canadian teams.
I just can’t deal with a world where Don Cherry might be able to do a Coach’s Corner wearing all his Toronto regalia during a Leafs parade. So go Bruins, go!
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