Dreams for Even the Non-Partisan
We already know that, barring a major re-organization of the way in which the NHL does business, the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will never again play for the Stanley Cup.
The best they can possibly do is a conference final or the odd playoff series. They haven't met in the playoffs since 1979, and the Leafs haven't won a post-season game off the Habs since that memorable May 41 years ago.
Having covered the Leafs and the NHL since 1989, I've never covered a Leaf-Hab series, with of course the '93 playoffs having come the closest to producing that matchup before The Great One wrecked Canada's hockey party.
For the non-partisan, then, there is an obvious reason in these final two weeks of the season to hope the Leafs might be successful in their longshot attempt to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament.
See, if the Leafs did make it, it would almost certainly be the Habs that would await them in the first round of the post-season.
Even if you absolutely despise the Habs or the Leafs, or both, you'd have to agree a playoff matchup would be a terrific spectacle for the game and the country.
Hab backers and many independent analysts, of course, would assert that Guy Carbonneau's quicksilver-like team would easily drub the Leafs, sweeping them just as they did in 1978 and 1979, and that might be true.
Montreal has a lethal power play, oodles of team speed, seemingly solid goaltending with Carey Price, outstanding leadership and the best arena atmosphere in the league.
What they don't have is a whole lot of playoff experience, with the club having failed to do much of anything in post-season play for 15 years. Alexei Kovalev, of course, has won a Cup, while the likes of Patrice Brisebois, Roman Hamrlik and Bryan Smolinski have been around the block a few times.
But this isn't a team loaded with playoff expertise among its most important players, particularly in goal, and under the right circumstances, that could make the Canadiens vulnerable to an early round upset.
No one would say today the Leafs could be the team to pull off that upset. But they have a hot goalie, and if they did manage to sneak into the playoffs, they'd surely be on a roll.
Moreover, a Montreal-Toronto playoff series next month would produce a unique dynamic that no one would be able to forecast with any great sense of confidence.
For the non-partisan, of course, it would just be great to see.