The Montreal Canadiens will play the Colorado Avalanche or the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
Montreal, the No. 4 seed in the Scotia North Division, swept the Winnipeg Jets, the No. 3 seed, in the Stanley Cup Second Round to advance. The Canadiens defeated the No. 1 seed Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the Stanley Cup First Round and have won seven straight.
The Golden Knights would advance with a win against the Avalanche in Game 6 on Thursday.
“They finished first or second in the League, but our objective is not to end it here,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said after sweeping the Jets on Monday. “If we want to make it to where we want to go, we’re going to have to beat the best teams.”
The Canadiens have never played the Avalanche or Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Montreal won three of five playoff series against the Quebec Nordiques before they relocated to Colorado prior to the 1995-96 season, including in six games in the 1993 Division Semifinals, when they most recenlty won the Stanley Cup.
Tyler Toffoli leads Montreal with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 11 games this postseason. Nick Suzuki has scored eight points (four goals, four assists), and Eric Staal (one goal, six assists) and Joel Armia (four goals, three assists) each has scored seven points. Carey Price is 8-3 with a 1.97 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and one shutout in 11 playoff games.
The Canadiens did not play the Avalanche or Golden Knights this season because of temporary division realignment due to COVID-19. On Sunday, Canada’s government announced its decision to allow NHL teams to cross the border into and from the United States for games beginning with the semifinals under a modified quarantine.
The Canadiens lost their only game against the Avalanche last season, 3-2 at Montreal on Dec. 5, 2019. Brendan Gallagher scored, and Cayden Primeau made 32 saves. Matt Calvert had a goal and an assist, and Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Graves each scored for Colorado. Pavel Francouz made 38 saves.
The Canadiens defeated the Golden Knights twice last season. Armia, Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar were among six Canadiens who scored two points (one goal, one assist for each). Price made 30 saves in a 5-4 shootout win at Vegas on Jan. 18, 2020.
The Golden Knights were led by Reilly Smith (one goal, two assists) and Shea Theodore (three assists) with three points each against the Canadiens last season. Max Pacioretty, a former Montreal captain, had a goal and an assist. Marc-Andre Fleury, a Quebec native, was 0-0-2, allowing nine goals on 61 shots (4.35 GAA, .852 save percentage).
Montreal, which won two playoff series in the same season for the first time since advancing to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014 (lost to New York Rangers in six games), has not advanced to the Stanley Cup Final since winning the Cup in 1993.
“ was a great team,” Ducharme said Monday. “The team really jelled together and went through some adversity (losing their first two games of the playoffs) against Quebec before getting on a roll. But every year is different and we’re not thinking about that kind of thing inside. We’re focused on the moment. I know from the outside, maybe you can see some things that are the same. But we have a long way to go.”