The Stanley Cup playoffs were just starting to resemble last year's postseason. For a time, it looked like the final four of the Stanley Cup playoffs would consist of the exact same teams as last season. But while the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings may still have a Western Conference finals rematch, the Montreal Canadiens joined the New York Rangers in forging new blood in the East on May 14.
The Canadiens stunned the favored Boston Bruins in Game 7 by 3-1, just as the Rangers upset the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road the previous night. While the Rangers finished a 3-1 series comeback to advance to the conference finals, the Canadiens merely won their second straight elimination game.
Like the Rangers, the Canadiens opened up a Game 7 lead and then let their goaltender stand on his head to preserve it. Carey Price turned away 29 shots, while Montreal only laid 18 shots onto Tuukka Rask. Yet the important stat was that three shots got by Rask, as Dale Weise and Max Pacioretty gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead and Danny Briere got them their insurance goal with under three minutes left.
The Bruins were the best team in the NHL going into the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the experience to back it up -- yet still couldn't finish off the inexperienced Canadiens. Now a Montreal team that last won it all in 1993 will face a New York club that hasn't won it all since 1994.
From the start of the season, the Bruins and Penguins had been the dominant teams in the East by a wide margin, as a second straight conference final showdown looked inevitable. Yet both teams fell short by losing seventh games at home in a rather ugly fashion.
Nevertheless, Yahoo Sports writer Nicholas J. Cotsonika wrote that the Canadiens won ugly as well, at least after Game 7 was over. Cotsonika blasted Montreal for complaining about getting no respect, asking "What great things have the Canadiens done in recent years?" compared to the Bruins.
Since 1993, the Canadiens have only gotten this far in the Stanley Cup playoffs twice, counting this postseason. The Rangers are in their second conference final in three years, so they technically have more experience on this level too. But now, the Eastern Conference finals will put the winner in uncharted and surprising territory no matter what.