Belief comes pretty naturally to fans.
The blind backing of your favorite team is what makes the sports-watching experience equally rewarding and crushing.
As such, there’s a horde of Habs fans around the city of Montreal and across North America convinced the Canadiens can do this thing.
Knock off the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in Round 1, then show the defending Stanley Cup champions the door in another seven-game epic? Sounds about right.
That a crush of Canadiens supporters will tune into Wednesday night’s decisive contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins expecting a Montreal triumph doesn’t register as news. What may, however, is the fact those of us asked to apply objectivity when evaluating these showdowns are less and less inclined to shout down the East’s eighth seed.
If the fan experience is marked by belief, the paid observer’s is colored by the healthy skepticism that’s supposed to insulate you from being sucked in by teams that really aren’t as good as they seem.
But those of us who’ve been leaning on logic are increasingly likely to start throwing in a few “you never knows” when it comes to the Canadiens’ chances.
Mostly it’s because every single time it appears an opponent is poised to finally pull away from Montreal, the Habs find some way to reel them back in and square a series they seem to have no business being in.
On average, the Canadiens have allowed roughly 10 more shots against than they’ve fired at the opponent during these playoffs. Their No. 1 defenseman, Andrei Markov, played 5:11 in the series against Pittsburgh. Their No. 1 shutdown pair was halved when Hal Gill went down in Game 5.
But here they are, an unlikely band of bleu, blanc et rouge ramblers whose plight was best summed up by their best skater after he scored two goals in Game 6 to help force the most meaningful hockey game the Habs have played in almost 20 years.
“We’re getting there,” Mike Cammalleri told The Associated Press. “We’re by no means a great team, but we’re trying to be the best team we can be.”
It’s getting tougher and tougher to discount the notion that could be good enough.
THN Puck Panel: Canadiens and Flyers snatch momentum
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper | PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: Jason Cassidy
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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