The Montreal Canadiens will face the New York Rangers Thursday in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final. They forced that game by extending the series on Tuesday, in a wild 7-4 win that saw them light up the previously unbeatable Henrik Lundqvist.
So what happens Thursday? Your guess is as good as mine. The Canadiens’ playoff run has been one of the most unpredictable in recent memory, already featuring a sweep, a seven-gamer, a major injury, and a rotating cast of heroes and goats.
But here’s one thing we can count on: The game will produce some sort of controversy. It wouldn’t be a 2014 Montreal Canadiens playoff game without some.
And we’re not just talking the run-of-the-mill stuff every team goes through this time of year — a weird bounce here, a possible dive there, and a healthy dose of referee-baiting between each game. No, the Canadiens are well past all that. They’ve spent the last six weeks finding new and exciting ways to give hockey fans something to argue about.
Some of it has to do with their being the only Canadian team in the playoffs, and all the media scrutiny that goes along with that. Some of it may just be a weird fluke. And, let’s be honest, a big part of it is that this is self-inflicted by a Montreal team specialized in drumming up minor controversies as part of a concentrated “the whole world is against us” campaign they’ve used to define their playoff run. Hey, if it works, it works.
But whatever is behind the phenomenon, you have to admire any team that can generate more postseason controversies than games played. So, in honor of the Canadiens’ achievement, let’s take a look back at the most controversial moments of their playoff run, in increasing order of ridiculousness.
No. 20: The Brandon Prust hit
Of all of Montreal’s playoff controversies, this was the most straightforward. A guy throws a hit that injures an opponent, in this case New York’s Derek Stepan. Some think it was dirty, others call it clean. The league weighs in with a suspension, which the player grudgingly accepts.
All of which is pretty much par for the playoff course. Then again, we’re just dealing with the hit itself — the fallout comes later in our list.
No. 19: Montreal bars sue the Bell Centre
By now you’ve heard about how Montreal fans have taken to packing the Bell Centre to cheer on the Habs, even for road games. The Canadiens have been inviting fans to watch the games on the arena’s big screen, with portions of the proceeds going to charity.
It’s a cool story, and further evidence of just how hockey-obsessed Montreal can get during a playoff run. But not everyone is happy about it; Montreal bar owners are going to court to try to stop the team from staging the events — or at least to prevent the team from selling beer during them. Have you ever seen 21,000 die-hard Montreal Canadiens fans who don’t have access to beer? I haven’t, but I once had to spend a half hour with two, and I feel qualified to tell you this is a really bad idea.
No. 18: P.K. Subban gets pelted with a water bottle after scoring an OT winner
Also, go ahead and get used to seeing P.K. Subban’s name, because he’s going to show up in this list kind of a lot.