It’s times like this when I wish I still lived back east. I can feel old-time hockey atmosphere, too thick to cut, drifting out of Montreal and parts beyond, and filtering right out here to the coast.
The Habs aren’t being stopped, eliminating the Buffalo Sabres tonight in a completely convincing, except for some brief moments in the third period, 3-1 win. And they won it in style, even with injuries, even with the northeast sewn up, because, like Alex Kovalev says, “a team starts the playoffs the way they end the season.”
And the way they’re ending it is flabbergasting. Without Koivu, Komisarek, and Bouillon, the team’s plumbers have risen to the occasion, and are not only shutting down other teams in general, but they’re shutting down other teams’ powerplays as well. And elder plumber Brian Smolinski gets a pair of big goals and once again, proves with the others that Pierre McGuire and Bob McKenzie and the rest can eat their words, and in the process, should finally give some big-time credit to the Canadiens, which they’ve yet to do.
And Alex Kovalev, at 35 and playing like 25, creates magic like no one. He could have scored about four beauties tonight, he worked like crazy, he set up others, he joined frays to help teammates, and has picked up an important role with Koivu out, showing that he’s a natural leader. My respect for Kovalev continues to grow.
This is a special time for Habs fans, so let’s savour it. In other years, when they made the playoffs, they made it by the skin of their teeth. Not this year though. Somewhere along the line, this team became a powerhouse, and are still threatening to win the east overall.
And they aren’t sneaking in the back door this time. They’re smashing in the front door and storming in.
I’m still a little numb about what’s transpiring. I expect the Canadiens to do well every single year of course, but this year I had no idea the Kostitsyn brothers would become such a force, or Kovalev would prove he’s one of the top five players in the league in my opinion, or that Carey Price would carry the torch, or that Guy Carbonneau would mature so nicely as a coach, or that the Kostopoulos’ and the Smolinski’s and the Begins’ would do the job like they’ve never done before.
Oh, to be in Montreal at this time. To be at the Bell Centre on one of the many triumphant nights, which, dare I say it, might even rival some of the big nights at the old Forum.
Keep it going, boys. Smash the Leafs on Saturday. Don’t get hurt. Head into the playoffs full steam ahead. We’re all behind you. And we’re all proud of you.