Regardless of what happens through the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs the Montreal Canadiens will have had a successful National Hockey League season.
And as a bonus to Canadiens fans in Sault Ste. Marie, there is a link to the Soo from this Montreal team.
First off, the Canadiens have aspirations of pulling off yet another upset by upending the Vegas Golden Knights to make it to the Stanley Cup finals.
But even if Montreal doesn’t beat Vegas to follow its stunning upsets of both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, the Canadiens are already a feel good story for this one of a kind NHL season.
The Canadiens finished a distant fourth behind the first place Maple Leafs in the all Canadian North Division during the 56 game regular season. But after trailing the Leafs three games to one in the first round of the playoffs, the Habs came back to win three straight to take the best of seven series 4-3.
Then came no. 3 seed Winnipeg, which had stunned the no. 2 seed Edmonton Oilers with a four game sweep in the first round. Undaunted, the Canadiens again shocked the hockey world by breezing past the Jets in four straight games in the North Division finals.
Now, Montreal is up against Vegas, which finished first overall during the regular season with 82 points, which was 23 more than the Canadiens.
Logic — and the law of averages — suggests that the Canadiens will be no match for the Golden Knights.
But regardless of how the series plays out, Montreal, as previously noted, has already made for good copy and a good story.
The Canadiens even have an aforementioned Sault Ste. Marie connection in pint-sized, rookie sensation forward Cole Caufield.
The 20-year old Caufield grew up in Wisconsin and later played university hockey for his home state Badgers and becoming a first round NHL draft pick by Montreal.
But the youngster’s dad, Paul Caufield, was born in good, old Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. And the Sault is where Paul’s dad and Cole’s grandfather, Wayne Caufield, was born and raised and was a local hockey sensation and all around athlete before moving to Milwaukee in the early 1970s. (Wayne died in 2018 at the age of 75.)
At any rate, this Montreal team has been an exciting one to watch featuring not only young Caufield but world class goalie Carey Price and a collection of former Ontario Hockey League stars who have become Canadiens mainstays in these playoffs including 21-year old forward Nick Suzuki, 29-year old forward Tyler Toffoli and a pair of ageless wonder forwards in 35-year old Corey Perry and 36-year old Eric Staal.
Suzuki, of note, was a star performer in leading the Guelph Storm to the 2019 OHL championship.