MONTREAL – No one expected the Montreal Canadiens to be here.
Coming off a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference, simply qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a shortened season with a new coach was a challenge few believed the Canadiens would be able to overcome. Not only did they do so, they did in style, winning the Northeast Division and claiming the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
But a five-game loss to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals overwhelmed all the good that was accomplished this season with the pain of having a surprisingly good season come to a very abrupt end with a 6-1 loss in Game 5 on Thursday night.
"This one hurts more than ones in the past," defenseman Josh Gorges said in a voice barely more audible than a whisper. "For our young guys – [Brendan Gallagher], [Alex Galchenyuk], [Jarred Tinordi], [Gabriel Dumont] – those guys got their first taste, they saw what it's like, how hard it is. For our other guys – like myself, [Brian Gionta], [Travis Moen], [Michael Ryder] – guys that have been around for a little bit, it's not easy. There's not a lot of time to succeed and get the ultimate goal. It gets harder and harder."