Canucks: Alex Burrows is the main reason why fans should cheer for Montreal

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 04: Assistant coach of the Montreal Canadiens Alex Burrows looks on from behind the bench against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period at the Bell Centre on March 4, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 04: Assistant coach of the Montreal Canadiens Alex Burrows looks on from behind the bench against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period at the Bell Centre on March 4, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

After finishing with a dismal record of 23-29-4, good for 24th in the league and dead last in the Scotia North Division, the Vancouver Canucks failed to qualify for the postseason, marking the fifth time in the past seven years.

As a result, the fanbase was once again forced to postpone any hope of playoff success from their club, and will most likely be waiting for quite some time moving forward.

But, despite our current postseason blues, it doesn’t mean that we still can’t cheer for another team in their quest for Lord Stanley.

On Monday night, the underdog Montreal Canadiens started their battle against the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning in the final round of the 2021 playoffs. The Lightning dominated game one, strengthening the expectation that they will be able to walk away with the ultimate prize for the second straight year, with superstars like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevsky leading the way.

Despite the on-ice thrashing that they received, however, don’t expect the Canadiens to just roll over and quit. Much like they did during the first three rounds, the Habs are hoping to reset and execute one more upset en route to raising the Stanley Cup. It also helps that recent history is on their side, as the past three Stanley Cup-winning teams all felt short in the opening game of their series.

Most hockey fans have jumped on the Montreal bandwagon simply because they’re the last Canadian team standing, and they have a 50/50 chance of breaking the drought that everyone North of the border has been living through for the past 28 years. Not to mention, they’re the most recent Canadian team to make it all the way to the Finals since the Canucks back in 2011, so it would make sense for the Vancouver fanbase to send positive vibes their way.

Of course, it often takes more than playoff history similarities and an almost three-decade losing streak for devoted fans to make the temporary switch to another franchise, particularly within Canadian markets. Plus, Vancouver was never labeled as “Canada’s team” during their 2011 playoff run, so it could be hard to give that title to the Canadiens right now. And who can forget former-Canuck Tyler Toffoli, who has come up clutch for Montreal on numerous occasions already, and will be looking to continue that success for the next three years of his deal.

But, at the end of the day, it’s always fun to rally behind one team in the finals. And in this case, there’s one person behind the Canadiens’ bench that should give you more than enough reason to support the Habs for the next few weeks: the dragon slayer himself, Alex Burrows.

It’s been quite the rollercoaster ride for Burrows this season. The 40-year-old was brought onto the Canadiens’ coaching staff halfway through the year, right after head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller were unexpectedly relieved from their duties. Despite only serving as an assistant coach for the Laval Rocket, Montreal’s affiliate club, for three seasons, it appeared that ownership had full faith in Burrows to help reignite the Montreal club.

And he delivered.

Burrows was given the responsibilities of revamping Montreal’s powerplay, and was able to do so almost right away. In his first five games with the club, Montreal was able to post a powerplay success rate of 44.4%, which was good for third in the entire league over that span. Like most teams, Montreal did end up going through some mid-season man advantage struggles with Burrows at the helm, but he was ultimately able to bounce back from that to help establish two strong powerplay units with smart, hard-working mentalities, just in time for the playoffs.

Burrows took on even more in his new role halfway through the postseason, after interim head coach Dominique Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19, which forced him into self-isolation for 14 days. Although Burrows didn’t end up taking over for Ducharme, who was replaced by fellow assistant coach Luke Richardson, the former-Canuck still had quite a bit added to his already-busy plate, including running the team practices between games.

Many of the Canadiens’ players have picked up on Burrows’ energy and enthusiasm as a coach, and it appears that the team is even trying to model his gritty, shutdown, in-your-face style of play that he perfected during his days in Vancouver.

Heading into the Finals, Montreal hadn’t allowed a powerplay goal in the past 13 playoff games. Unfortunately, that streak was broken late in the third period on Monday night, but it’s still impressive nonetheless. That goal was just the fourth powerplay goal surrendered by the Canadiens all postseason, improving their PK record to 45/49.

Plus, they’ve also been able to find offence on the penalty kill, notching four shorthanded tallies already to boast a net penalty kill percentage of 110%. In other words, putting Burrows behind the bench appears to have paid off so far.

During his 11 and a half seasons in Vancouver, Burrows recorded 193 goals and 191 assists in 822 games. His best year came in 2009-10, where he hit career-highs in goals (35), assists (32) and points (67). Points aside, Burrows was also able to transform himself into one of the team leaders who was trusted in almost all situations, and he instantly became a fan favourite in the process.

Burrows also came up clutch during the playoffs, notching 19 goals and 15 assists in 70 games with Vancouver. Three of those tallies were overtime game-winning goals, with the most recent two happening in 2011 against the Chicago Blackhawks in game seven of the first round, and against the Boston Bruins in game two of the Finals.

There’s no doubt that Vancouver fans and players alike will always regret that their team couldn’t get it done in 2011, falling one game short of the ultimate prize. The roster was one of the most dominant ones we’ve witnessed in a long time, during both the regular season and during the three rounds leading up to the Finals, and it was the best chance for some of the veteran core players, like Burrows, to finally achieve their childhood dreams.

"“Obviously, there’s only one thing missing,” said Burrows, earlier in March of this year. “If I can do it as a coach, I’ll be extremely happy. I’m still chasing that dream.”"

Of course, it’ll be a while before Vancouver can present a roster even close to the calibre of the 2011 squad, pushing our playoff hopes even farther down the line. But it’s always nice to see a former-Canuck just four wins away from finally hoisting the Stanley Cup, no matter where they are in their careers.

And even though he wouldn’t be hoisting the Cup in a Vancouver uniform if his club does end up beating the Lighting, seeing Burrows finally reach the promise land should be the next-best-thing for most fans in this city.

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Would you be happy seeing Burrows win a Stanley Cup with Montreal? What are your predictions for the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals? Make sure to drop a comment below!