I don't know how many of you are like me, but I've been afraid of opposing teams for a long time now. For years, we could never look at a schedule and say, "Oh yeah...Habs'll take that one for sure." At least half the teams in the league have been better than the Canadiens, and even the lower teams seemed to raise their games when it came to playing Montreal. A team might be the worst in the league, but oh no! They've got a French goalie who gets fired up to play at the Bell Centre and shuts out the Habs.
Then there are the teams that have owned the Canadiens, those you'd just groan at when you'd see their names on the schedule. The New Jersey Brodeurs? Guaranteed loss. Florida at Christmas? Guaranteed loss.
The hard part for many of us now is getting over the fear. Seriously...it's not easy. We're all sitting here now, with our team first in the east and likely to win the division for the first time in forever, the highest scoring team in the league for the first time since Lafleur still had his own hair, and we're worried to death over who the Habs will get in the first round. Boston would be great, we say, because we KNOW the Habs can beat them. Philly would be beatable too. But we're frightened Washington might squeak into eighth and bring the vengeance of Ovechkin and the spectre of Huet down on the Canadiens' collective heads. Some of us are actually hoping the team doesn't win the conference, but ends up second, because we're afraid of stiff competition in round one of the playoffs.
What we need to realize is, the Habs are a good team. A really good team. Maybe it's because we see all the prospects still in various stages of development, or because the team has so much untapped potential in its youth, that we're afraid to believe that what we're seeing isn't one big, season-long fluke. They can't be this good already, we think. Can they?
I think so. And I think they're going to be even better in the next couple of years. But right now, they have great special teams, strong goaltending, speed, team chemistry, good coaching, decent D and the ability to score many, many goals. The Montreal Canadiens are a good team again. They're good enough to beat any team in a seven-game series, even a good young squad with Alex Ovechkin on board.
For the first time in a very long time, we've learned never to give up on this team. They don't quit and they want to win. It's time for us to stop being afraid and start believing.