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For the second time in three seasons, Fredericton native Jake Allen is on his way to the Stanley Cup final.
The veteran NHL goaltender was traded to the Montreal Canadiens before this season began, after seven seasons with the St. Louis Blues, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2019.
His new team had an up and down year, including a five-game losing streak at the end of the regular season, and hardly would have been considered a favourite to make it this far.
But the playoffs have been a different story.
"It's pretty surreal, you know, obviously very fortunate to be able to do this for the second time in three years," Allen said in an interview with CBC New Brunswick's provincial afternoon show Shift. "And, you know, with a historic franchise like Montreal, it's pretty cool.
"A lot of people go their whole career without reaching this stage."
Thursday night, Montreal beat Las Vegas 3-2 in overtime to win a spot in the final series.
There are some parallels between this season and Allen's Stanley Cup run in 2019, including inconsistent regular season play.
In 2019, his St. Louis Blues started off so slow, the team was widely considered the worst in the league by mid-December, having won only 10 games.
But the Blues would reel off 35 wins down the stretch and carry that momentum into the playoffs.
Allen said momentum has been the key this year, too.
"We're just sort of peaking at the right time, and that's sort of what the playoffs are all about."
The Habs almost waited too long to peak. Down three games to one in the opening series and facing elimination against Toronto, the team's tight-checking defensive style started to pay off.
Montreal won three straight to take the series and has lost only two games since.
A big part of the team's success is the goaltending of Carey Price, who has been so hot he has relegated Allen to the end of the players' bench.
When asked what that means for his role on the team, Allen laughed, clearly understanding that it's unlikely he'll be replacing Price in net during these playoffs.
"That's, you know — that's a good question," said Allen, who had 27 starts and a 2.68 goals against average during the regular season. "Keep the guys light, you know, give Carey what he needs, make sure I'm there — someone to lean on, someone to talk to.
"I contributed well in the regular season."
The Habs will now face the Tampa Bay Lightning, who eliminated the New York Islanders on Friday with a 1-0 victory in Game Seven of their series. Tampa is the defending Stanley Cup champions, but Allen said it doesn't matter to his teammates who they face.
"We finished 18th in the regular season and, you know, we've beaten all the teams that were ahead of us already in the standings in the year, so I think at this point for our group it really doesn't matter."
And, as he approaches his second Stanley Cup final, Allen said it feels different as a member of a Canadian team, something he thinks may be a feature of the all-Canadian regular season because of COVID restrictions.
"I think that for that reason, that we played, you know, all the six other teams in Canada so many times this year, I think we have the support from the whole country."