Pressing question: How will Habs handle carrying Canada’s Cup hopes?

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One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

The Montreal Canadiens, the most successful franchise in National Hockey League history with 24 Stanley Cup championships, will begin the 2014 playoffs as Canada’s lone postseason entry.

If the notion is true that folks north of the border pin their hopes of the Stanley Cup’s return to a Canadian franchise, then the Habs enter this postseason with the weight of an entire nation on their shoulders. That, of course, is if the notion is true — and there are differing opinions on that.

Do fans across Canada actually and suddenly galvanize behind the one national market remaining in the playoffs?

The Habs, in the historical hockey hotbed of Montreal, might have a long-reaching fan base. But so, too, do other teams in Canada.

Only adding to the intrigue is the fact the Habs are the last Canadian franchise to win a Stanley Cup. That was back in 1993. It’s been a while.

And the odds of that happening again in 2014 are slim, especially with the collapse of the Toronto Maple Leafs down the stretch, the Vancouver Canucks’ fall from grace that began in January and the futility of the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators throughout the season.

In 2013, four Canadian teams — the Canadiens, Leafs, Senators and Canucks — qualified for the post-season.

“It’s a little bit strange, but at the same time, it’s not easy playing in Canadian markets,” said Canadiens’ defenseman Josh Gorges, as per TSN.

“On a lot of teams in the States, there’s nothing more to it than going out and playing the game and getting the two points, whereas a lot of times in Canada, you can’t escape hockey.

“No matter where you go, there’s added, outside things that affect your performance. I think we’ve done a good job here of trying to find that balance, but that could, maybe, be a reason why some Canadian teams haven’t been in there.”

The Habs go into this post-season having won seven of their last 10 games while their first-round foe, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are heading in on a four-game winning streak.

Something has to give, as these two teams battled it out for home ice advantage in the opening round with the Bolts emerging the victors.

As in most any playoff series, goaltending will likely be the key to victory. A healthy Carey Price, who finished the season with a .927 save percentage and backstopped Canada to an Olympic gold medal in Sochi, might be enough to get the Canadiens through to the next round.

There also question marks surrounding the health of Ben Bishop, who was shut down for the remainder of the regular season with an arm injury.

This series begins on Wednesday.

While it’s debatable the Habs might carry the championship hopes and pressure of an entire hockey-mad country, getting out of the first round, something they weren’t able to do as the No. 2 seed a year ago, will be the first challenge.

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.