Montreal·Analysis

The Canadiens have an opportunity to be the inspirational underdog story hockey fans need

The odds are against Montreal as they open their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night.

If there’s another shock to the sports world in 2020, few would object if it were the Habs lifting the Cup

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price listens to head coach Claude Julien during a practice in Brossard July 21, 2020. The Habs' chances of going far in the playoffs may rest on Price's shoulders. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Is there anyone out there who really believes the Habs have a chance to win the Stanley Cup?

The mood around the Habs fan base these days is as passionate as ever, but even the most diehard supporter has to acknowledge that it would take a sequence of "Miracle on Ice"-like events before the Canadiens celebrate their 25th championship in October.

Beyond the monumental task of the league's 24th ranked team in a 24-team tournament knocking off the competition on the ice, the pandemic is still looming like a guillotine blade over pro sports in general.

For now, they're going to play, but how long the season will last is anyone's guess. We saw how quickly the sports world came to a halt in March. There are no guarantees.

However, we're pretty sure the Habs will play game one of their series against the Penguins tonight.

Can Carey Price help the Habs pull off a huge upset over the Penguins? Rob Pizzo breaks down their chances.  1:17

Hockey Night in Canada will be switched on to television sets nationwide and Habs fans from coast to coast will gather in small, socially-distanced groups to see if the boys can pull a rabbit out of their hat against the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins and their decorated leader, Sidney Crosby.

There is something pure and beautiful about the unexpected and the underdog in sports.

Fans in Montreal also remember 2010 — that year, the Habs beat the odds to take out the Capitals and the Penguins, thanks to some jaw-dropping performances by goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

The city was on fire with passion and belief. It was a beautiful wave to ride, in part because nobody saw it coming.

Evgeni Malkin dives to make a shot on a breakaway but Jaroslav Halak makes the save during the Habs' improbable 2010 playoff run. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

It lifted the city up and filled living rooms and the streets of Montreal with a level of joy we haven't really seen since. Sure, the run to the conference finals in 2014 was also fun, but it didn't have the same "where-did-that-come-from" euphoria to it.

A hot goalie can tip the scales and the Montreal Canadiens have Carey Price. The possibility of rekindling that 2010 feeling is what will drive many fans to their television sets to watch hockey in August.

There are others who want to see the team fail. They'd rather have a 12.5 per cent chance to pick first in the next NHL Draft and potentially add a generational player who will bring the franchise sustained success in the future.

It's a logical approach that's hard to debate, even if 12.5 per cent is still a long shot by most standards.

Habs general manager Marc Bergevin has been often quoted as saying that anything can happen.

These playoffs will put that philosophy to the ultimate test.

Like most of 2020 so far, these Stanley Cup Playoffs promise to be the most unique ever played and consequently will likely be the most unpredictable yet.

Yes, the attitudes of Habs fans heading into the game Saturday will vary, but if there's another shock to the sports world in 2020, few would object if that surprise were the Habs lifting the Cup.

A little bit of hope can go a long way. Enjoy the game.

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