Do you believe in magic?
Your Montreal Canadiens are second in the Eastern Conference, behind only the absurdly talented Toronto Maple Leafs. Dream the dream.
Are we all high? Yes, we are — high on the Habs. The team is 4-1-1 after six games. Who predicted that kind of start? Precisely no one.
I know it’s only October, that it’s only six games, but you have to be impressed by what you’ve seen so far. It’s not just that they’re winning, it’s how they’re winning. Look at the game Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues. This is a big, tough Western Conference team and we know what happened the last time they played a big, tough Western team — the Los Angeles Kings crushed the wee Habs along the boards and shut ’em out 3-0.
But Montreal snatched victory from the jaws of a tie Wednesday. The magic moment came with 9.7 seconds to go when our new hero, Tomas (Tuna) Tatar, snatched an incredibly stupid pass from the Blues’ Colton Parayko and Tuna shoved the puck up to our old hero Brendan Gallagher and he somehow poked it past netminder Jake Allen, who looked to the heavens in dismay afterward. In fact, Montreal had trouble with the Blues and there remain some worrisome things, most notably the Habs’ awful penalty-kill and power-play units.
Yet there is so much to celebrate in this young season. Start with Tatar, who is making fans quickly forget Max Pacioretty. I know Patches is going to light it up in the desert, but he has only one goal after seven games as a Golden Knight, while Tuna leads the Habs with three goals and five assists after six games. As my colleague Marc Dumont noted, Tatar has been on the ice for seven goals for and none against in his last four games. Wow!
And Gallagher seems to have picked up exactly where he left off after last year’s career season. Then there’s Mike Reilly. I never thought I’d write these words, but that trade — Reilly from Minnesota in return for a fifth-round draft pick — makes Marc Bergevin look like a genius. In fact, the Max Domi trade, the Pacioretty trade and the Reilly move all look just brilliant today.
It’s fun to watch the Habs again. Something I haven’t felt in a couple of years. It was painful to watch games last season and most of us couldn’t sit through one from start to finish. But, and you knew there was going to be a “but” given who’s writing, it’s early in the season. Someone said this team reminded them of the ’93 team and I replied: “On se calme, man.” They still have another 76 games to play and even a playoff berth is far from guaranteed.
Let’s enjoy the ride, but don’t let the legal weed cloud your judgment. It’s mid-October. The Canadiens will not win the Stanley Cup this year. I like to call them Les Boys of October. One of the greatest hockey quotes I ever heard came from a cab driver two years ago who told me that the Canadiens always roar into the season like a lion and then slink out like a chihuahua.
In fall 2015, they blasted off to a 9-0 start, an all-time record for the club. In the second half of the season, they went into their worst slump since the beginning of the Second World War and ended up 13th in the Eastern Conference. In 2016, the Canadiens went 8-0-1 in their first nine games and did keep it going more or less, finishing first in the Atlantic Division. Last year, they had a crappy start, middle and finish.
Short version? They’re often hot in October, but this feels different. There is something about this group that’s inspiring. I’ve always said the Habs always surprise. When they’re bad, they’re badder than anyone could imagine (like last season). Then they come out of nowhere and do things you’d never expect.
Rather than comparing this season’s team with the 1993 Canadiens, I’m thinking more 2010, when Jaroslav Halak delivered the greatest playoff goaltending the Habs have seen since Patrick Roy’s days. That was the Habs’ magic, the magic that had me and my 10-year-old son dancing around the living room screaming our heads off after they finished off Sidney Crosby and the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.
I believe in magic. Do you?