June 24 — Montreal, Milestones & Playoff Performances

On Tap For Today — Vegas at Montreal 8 pm EDT; USA, CBC, TVAS, SN

Wednesday’s Wheelhouse

FOLEY MOLEY: Longtime Blackhawks announcer Pat Foley will retire after the 2021-22 season, which will be his 39th as Chicago’s voice. Thanks for the memories, Pat — can’t wait to listen to you for one last season.

KEEP CALM AND BERGER-ON: Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron was announced as the winner of the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award yesterday, given annually to the player who “exemplifies great leadership qualities on and off the ice and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey.” Congrats, Patrice!

KUCHEROV SIDELINED: Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who missed the entire regular season, left Game 6 early in the first period and did not return. Though no immediate status update was available, Scott Mayfield may end up having a chat with the NHL Department of Player Safety later today.

POINT-ING THE WAY: Brayden Point continued doing Brayden Point things in yesterday’s 3-2 overtime loss, scoring for the ninth consecutive playoff game, just one short of Reggie Leach’s mark set in 1976. His 14 goals this postseason are tied with the Lightning franchise record — which he set last season.

BEAUVILLIER’S BEAUTY: Anthony Beauvillier’s Game 6 overtime winner capped a dramatic comeback and forces a decisive Game 7 on Friday. Get hyped!

Canadiens Built for Future Success

As is typical for any NHL franchise in transition, it’s hard to know what the current identity of the Montreal Canadiens is. Are they still a deep and defensively tough group anchored by captain Shea Weber and superstar goalie Carey Price (35 and 33, respectively)? Or is the franchise now in the hands of the young guns — playoff breakthrough performers Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Cole Caufield?

Teams find themselves at this kind of crossroads all the time. Most of those teams, however, aren’t one win away from a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. While it may not be as unlikely a run as the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion campaign, the Canadiens are nonetheless turning heads by winning 10 of their past 12 games following a 59-point regular season — not to mention a 3-1 first round series deficit to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With this current fairy tale run through the NHL playoffs, the Habs are changing their outlook. Weber remains a physically imposing defensive anchor and Price is back at the top of his game after an underwhelming, injury-marred regular season. However, the focal point of their playoff journey has shifted to the 21-year-old Suzuki, 20-year-old Kotkaniemi, and 20-year-old Caufield — a young trio that has accounted for 13 combined playoff goals thus far.

These two representative groups on contrasting ends of the age spectrum beg the question: is this Montreal’s best chance at the Cup, or are we seeing the dawn of a contemporary dynasty from the league’s winningest franchise?

The reality is that neither Weber nor Price are getting any younger, and both are inked to large contracts that each carry through 2026. Once this run ends one way or another, GM Marc Bergevin will also have to face the pending free agency of a group that includes veteran playoff standouts Joel Armia and Corey Perry, and shutdown center Phillip Danault — plus a new contract for the restricted Kotkaniemi.

Then again, it’s hard to worry about those things when you have three bright young stars proving themselves on hockey’s biggest stage against a bona fide Cup contender. All three will be locked in as top-six forwards next season, with Suzuki and Caufield counting for a shade over $1.6 million — combined! — against the cap. Even with large sums of long-term money tied up in the contracts of Weber, Price, Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher, and Josh Anderson, the trio of next-generation Candiens makes things easier for Bergevin.

To be fair, most Habs fans probably care very little about all of this at the moment. Tonight could see the club clinch their first Cup Final appearance since 1993 — so they can be forgiven for not concerning themselves with the offseason or next year. However, it still remains a fascinating place for the organization to suddenly find itself — particularly given how recently they were criticized for their lack of star power.

Top Shelf Thursday — Top Postseason Offensive Performances

Top Shelf Thursday is back with a Throwback Thursday twist. In honor of Brayden Point scoring in nine straight postseason games, we decided to take a look at some of the best postseason offensive performances. This list is filled with Conn Smythe Trophy winners, and each player eventually found his way into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s only fitting to begin our journey through time in Montreal and put the spotlight on a legendary Canadiens player.

1951 Montreal Canadiens — Maurice Richard

Maurice Richard is a legend in Montreal. The Canadiens retired his number on October 6, 1960 and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. During the 1950-51 postseason, he scored 13 points in 11 games — including three overtime game winning goals. During the playoffs he was leading goal scorer and tied with Max Bentley with 13 points, which led all players.

1970 Boston Bruins — Bobby Orr

Bobby Orr played in 74 postseason games and won the Stanley Cup twice. His first Cup was won in 1970. That season he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the postseason. The defenseman notched 20 points in 14 games, which included two game-winning goals and the infamous overtime goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 that secured the first Boston Bruin Stanley Cup victory in 29 years.

1985 Edmonton Oilers — Wayne Gretzky

How can we talk about postseason offensive performances and not bring up Wayne Gretzky? One postseason stands above the rest and that came in the 1984-85 season. In 18 games he scored an unfathomable 47 points — yes, you read that correctly. Gretzky scored 17 goals and finished with 30 assists.  His team moved on to win the Stanley Cup and, like Orr, he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy that season. 

1991 Pittsburgh Penguins — Mario Lemieux

Mario Lemieux is synonymous with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He arguably saved the franchise multiple times, and his jersey number is retired and hanging from the rafters. During the 1990-91 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Lemieux scored 16 goals and added 28 assists for a total of 44 points in 23 games. 

1994 New York Rangers — Mark Messier

Do you remember the “Messier Guarantee Game?” If so you probably remember ESPN Commentator Gary Thorne screaming, “Do you believe it? Do you believe it?” The Hockey Hall of Famer scored a natural hat trick in the third period of Game 6 of the Conference Finals against their rival — the New Jersey Devils. Prior to the game Messier stated, “We know we have to win it. We can win it, and we are going to win it.” He secured the win for his team and the Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup after defeating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.