SUN Hockey Pool

Poll: Habs are Canada's best hope to win Cup

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price is congratulated by teammates following their win over the...

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price is congratulated by teammates following their win over the Buffalo Sabres in Montreal, November 27, 2010. (REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:46 PM ET

MONTREAL - Canadian hockey fans are apparently able to separate the heart and the brain.

Almost half of those polled by by Leger Marketing for QMI Agency said the Montreal Canadiens, who are off to a fantastic start, are the Canadian NHL team with the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup this season.

In a poll of 1,508 Canadian adults Nov. 22, using Leger’s on-line panel, 46% of adults 18 and older said they believe the Canadiens are this country’s best hope to win the Cup.

As you might expect, Quebeckers led the way with 77% believing the Canadiens, who went on a surprising run to the Eastern Conference final last spring, are the team with the best shot at bringing Lord Stanley’s mug back to Canada. The last time one of the six Canadian teams hoisted the Cup was in 1993, when the Habs won.

“Canadians are able to acknowledge that as hockey fans,” said pollster Dave Scholz, the executive vice-president of Leger Marketing. “They are able to take that step back and base their opinion on this year and the Canadiens play in the playoffs last year.

“They’re maybe passionate about their home teams, but they are realistic about their overall expectations.” According to the poll, a “significantly smaller portion,” - actually 34% - believe the Vancouver Canucks are the Canadian team with the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup. The Senators were third with seven percent support, followed by the Leafs (huh?) at six, the Calgary Flames at five and the Edmonton Oilers at two.

The Canadiens are in first place in the Northeast Division with a 15-8-1 record and own third place in the Eastern Conference on the strength of their division standing (the three division leaders are seeded 1-2-3 in the conference based on their point totals).

There were a lot of questions around the Canadiens after last spring’s playoff run. They traded playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues for prospects, including forward Lars Eller, and opted to go with Carey Price in net as their No. 1 goaltender.

In retrospect, it was a smart move by general manager Pierre Gauthier. Price has stepped up and been brilliant, leading the league in wins (14) and goals-against average (1.95) and is third in save percentage (.935).

“Our guys got out of the gate hot and that’s exactly what we wanted to do,” Price told QMI Agency when asked about the poll results. “It’s the way we wanted to start after last year’s run. We wanted to continue what we were doing and the guys are doing a great job.

“But it doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s just 24 games.There’s a whole lot of hockey to be played yet and it’s a long road to the finals.” Defenceman Alexandre Picard, who has stepped up and become one of the club’s top six defencemen after top blueliner Andrei Markov was felled by another knee injury, said the poll results are a reflection of the Habs’ great start.

“It’s a nice vote of confidence from the people of Canada,” he said. “There were a lot of questions about our team coming into the season and Carey was probably the biggest one, but he’s been our best player. If he doesn’t play the way he has, we’re not where we are now.”


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