I can be pretty superstitious when it comes to the Habs. I'm one of those people who won't say "shutout" before the final whistle, and who believes setting my little rubber Patrick Roy in front of the television at just the right angle during playoff games helps the mojo. So, I have to say I'm not liking the jinxy feeling I get when all the pundits who called for the Canadiens to finish last or close to it last season are now calling for them to finish on top.
I don't like the pressure such lofty expectations place on a young team like the Habs. It's the kind of situation that sets a group up for failure. If they start the season strongly, well, it's no more than expected. If they stumble out of the gate, it will start playing on their minds and the pressure will mount until it becomes an ever-growing mental issue. On one hand, it's nice to see our team finally get the credit it deserves for its success last season. On the other, big expectations are a big test for the coming year.
I'm hoping they meet that test head-on and prove they deserve to be rated as highly as they are. Logically, all the tools are there and if they're healthy and mentally strong, there's no reason why they shouldn't win a ton of hockey games this year. In fact, the expectations of this season are an inevitable step in developing a championship team. If they face the challenge and overcome it, they'll believe they deserve to win. Last year against Philly, I got the feeling that they didn't truly think they were supposed to win the series and they didn't really believe in themselves after about the first three games. I think that might have been partly due to the low expectations they carried into the year, as though because no one expected them to win, maybe they shouldn't have been winning. It seemed like they were kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. If they head out this season with everyone expecting them to win, then actually following through and doing it, they'll start to realize how good they can be and accept it as their due for being talented, fast and hard-working.
The only thing is, for the superstitious among us, the predictions have a whiff of doom about them. If the pundits proved one thing last year, it's that they really are no better at predicting how a season will play out than the weatherman is at guessing in October that it will be raining on April 5 and being right about it. They were so very wrong last year, that it makes me worry they're going to be just as wrong this season and we'll have to listen to tons of "What's wrong with the Habs" panicked discussions. So my best hope for this season is that the Canadiens will prove they're for real, and none of them read any of the predictions...and if they do, they'll pick up the challenge and run with it until some time in mid-June.
I know they can do it. I just hope they do too.