Maritimers stoked for Stanley Cup semifinal
SYDNEY, N.S. -- The Montreal Canadiens' miracle playoff run resumes Monday night in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights, and Maritimers are set to back the only Canadian team left in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It's going to be a late night, and an early morning for work," says Canadiens fan Annette MacLean of Sydney, N.S.
The puck drops on Game 1 of the Stanley Cup semifinal series at 10 p.m. (ADT) Monday evening, but that won't keep MacLean and other Montreal Canadiens fans in the Maritimes from tuning in. And though the Golden Knights are heavy favourites – they finished tied for first overall in the NHL's regular season – MacLean is betting on the Habs.
"We are beating them. Everybody said that we weren't beating Toronto. We were down three games to one, and it goes to prove that no other NHL team has the heart that this Montreal team does as of right now."
Indeed, the Canadiens' path to the third round has been an improbable one. After a seven-game upset of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a sweep of the Winnipeg Jets, many have adopted Les Habitants as Canada's team. But not everyone.
Bob and Angela Hawkins of Sydney River, N.S. billeted Vegas star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, when he played for the Q League's Cape Breton Eagles from 2000-2004.
"Marc-Andre's been part of our family for 21 years, so we've got to cheer for Vegas," Bob Hawkins told CTV Atlantic.
His wife points out that many Cape Bretoners still support Fleury, and that the native of Sorel, Que., will get an extra boost when the series shifts to Montreal.
"Oh, it will be very special for him. Of course, he will have a lot of support from family and friends. Even though many can't get into the rink (because of COVID-19 protocols)," says Angela Hawkins.
One of the keys to the series will be the matchup in net. Carey Price has been a difference-maker for Montreal. While Fleury is nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender. Bob Hawkins sees the narrow margin between the two star netminders as a microcosm of the series.
"I think it's pretty even. I think that the teams are even. It's team defence. Marc-Andre will tell you that there (are) six guys on the ice, not just one."
Of course, no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens did it 28 years ago.
"It feels like 1993, because it's going to be a repeat," predicts MacLean.
So what are the Vegas odds for another Montreal series victory? Some numbers out of the Nevada capital give the Golden Knights a nearly 82 per cent chance of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. Others predict it will be much closer.
"If it goes less than six games, I'll be shocked. Six or seven," says Bob Hawkins.
Meanwhile, Montreal fan Annette MacLean says if she were in a Vegas casino, she knows how she would stake her money.
"Bet on red," MacLean says. "Because that's the colour that's going to win."