History working against Habs
Beating the top-seeded Boston Bruins is hard enough.
Down 3-0 in their first-round playoff series, the Montreal Canadiens not only face a daunting task in turning back the challenge of the boys from Beantown, but they also have to defy history to do it.
Only two of the 156 teams that have stared down the barrel of a 3-0 playoff deficit in the history of the NHL have come back to win four in a row and claim the series.
The Canadiens will try to take the first step towards joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders on Wednesday when they host the Bruins in Game 4 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
During the regular season, the Bruins topped the conference with 116 points, while the Canadiens finished eighth with 93.
On Monday, in Game 3, Montreal gave everything it had in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the Bruins 10-6, out-hitting them 21-7 and winning 65 per cent of the faceoffs.
But the Habs couldn't sustain the pressure and ended up losing 4-2.
Afterwards, Montreal captain Saku Koivu was asked how his team could prevent the idea of this series already being over from creeping into their heads.
"You can't quit at this point," Koivu said. "I think it's up to every individual to prepare themselves for the battle on Wednesday. We understand the odds are against us, but the only thing that can be on our minds is that we have to win one game at home and go from there."
Koivu was also asked about Montreal's troubled season as a whole, and while he conceded that things have been far from smooth, the Habs are not prepared to wave the white flag just yet.
"It's been somewhat of an interesting and at times tough year for us," said Koivu. "There's been some adversity, but we battled back and fought hard over the last 10 or 15 games to make it to the playoffs. So now's not the time to quit. It's not easy, but we can't feel sorry for ourselves."
Like Koivu, coach Bob Gainey believes the weight of trying to make a huge comeback can be overcome with the slightest glimmer of belief in the near impossible.
"There's always a vein of optimism, there's always some hope," he said. "Until that's gone, that's what you play with. That's what you rely on."
Poised to win their first playoff series in a decade, the Bruins also have a challenge: maintaining their intensity in the face of what looks to be a done deal.
But coach Claude Julien insists that will not be an issue in Game 4.
"This game is already put aside," Julien said after Monday's victory. "Our heads are into the next game already because that's the way we've been all year."
Game 5, if necessary, goes Saturday in Boston (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).