The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs are into the home stretch as we enter the semifinal round. The Final Four teams are set. The New York Islanders are taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Prince of Wales Trophy. While the Montreal Canadiens are taking on the Vegas Golden Knights for the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl. Like in previous seasons before there are always two teams everyone expects to be there. And there are two teams that come out of nowhere and surprise the pundits. This year the two teams everyone expected to be in the Final Four with Vegas and Tampa Bay. But the other two teams in the Canadiens and Islanders nobody expected. Both teams are relishing the underdog role.
The Islanders took out the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and the Boston Bruins in the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Entering the series against the Penguins many didn’t give the Islanders a chance, but they should have considering the history. And history was once again on the Islanders’ side. They got some breaks along the way, but they proved they could play with any team in a tough East Division. For most of the season, they played Pittsburgh tight and in the playoffs, they were the better team.
Against the Bruins, the Islanders were a heavy underdog, but again proved they could play with the Bruins. They did so in the regular season and it translated into playoff success. Entering the playoffs, the Islanders wanted to prove their run in the bubble was no fluke. Their style of play can match up with any team in the league. As we have seen in Game 1 against the Lightning, the Islanders are a tough team to play against. Would anyone be shocked if they made the Stanley Cup Final at this point?
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The Canadiens are riding a seven-game win streak entering their series against the Golden Knights. The last time the Canadiens won this many games in a row in the playoffs they hoisted the Stanley Cup back in 1993. Fun fact, Montreal was the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. So history is on the side of the Canadiens. However, like they were against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, the Canadiens enter the series against Vegas heavy underdogs.
Down 3-1 to Toronto in the first round, the Canadiens turned around the series by getting back to what made them so dangerous earlier in the season The addition of Cole Caufield and Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the Canadiens lineup has given them more energy. And you can see by the way they play especially Caufield with Nick Suzuki. Montreal is playing lockdown defence in front of Carey Price. But Price is making the saves when he needs to.
They rode the tide wave momentum in against Winnipeg. Nobody expected them to sweep Winnipeg. But just like the Islanders, the Canadiens got some breaks along the way too. Montreal has a tough task in front of them with Vegas. Everyone said prior to the series starting one team Montreal could match up with was Vegas. Playing that defensive style can slow down and frustrate Vegas. Just like with the Islanders, will anyone be shocked if Montreal wins.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the time of the unexpected and the time of the upsets. There is a reason why they play the game on ice and not on paper. Because anything can happen and usually does.