Corey Perry and Eric Staal know how fortunate they are to be playing for the Stanley Cup again. The two Canadiens veterans are champions, but also realize just how hard it is to even get a chance to play for a title.
Both Perry and Staal won their only Stanley Cups in their second NHL seasons. Staal was the playoff scoring leader with 28 points in 2006 when the Hurricanes won their first championship. Perry recorded 15 points as the Ducks won the following season.
Those titles were the closest either would get for a long time. Staal and the Hurricanes would reach the 2009 Eastern Conference Final, but would be swept by the eventual champion Penguins. Perry and the Ducks would get to the Western Conference Final twice, but he would fail to advance further until joining the Stars last season.
“I was sitting in the dressing room the other night, sitting beside Eric Staal, and he was telling me he hasn’t been back [to the Cup Final] since 2006 when he won,” Perry said. “We both looked at each other. I said the first time I was back was last year since 2006-07, so I know the feeling.
“You come into this league at a young age and you have success early. I went to the conference final my first year and we ended up winning my second year, so you think it’s going to happen over and over again; you can keep the same team together and just ride the wave. But that’s not the case. Teams, with the [salary] cap and everything going on, teams change quickly, and you never know when that is going to happen.
“As a group, we’ve talked about that. Live the moment and enjoy it. Take on this wild ride and have fun with it because you never know when that next chance is going to happen ever again.”
Canadiens fans know all about waiting. Since the team’s 1993 title the Habs have gone to two conference finals, losing both to that season’s eventual runner-up. This journey has been a magical six weeks for Montreal, and one the franchise will remember for a long time.
For Perry, it’s the second straight season he’s facing the Lightning with the Cup on the line. He was a key contributor during Dallas’ 2020 run and netted three goals in the Cup Final, including the Game 5 double overtime winner. Tampa Bay would go on to win the series in six games.
“Another year playing the same team,” Perry said. “It’s a little different this year, obviously, being here in Montreal, but it’s another great test. They’re a heck of a hockey team. It’s pretty much the same team as last year. It’s going to be a good test for us and we’re up for the challenge.
“Personally, I don’t think there’s revenge or anything. Like I said, it’s a different year, a different team, it’s a new test, and we’ll see what happens.”
After long waits personally, and an even longer wait for the franchise to get back to this point, Perry had a simple message for his teammates about this opportunity.
“Don’t take it for granted,” Perry said.
2021 NHL playoff schedule: Stanley Cup Final – series livestream link
Game 1: Mon. June 28: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 2: Wed. June 30: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3: Fri. July 2: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC)