We stand here together today, my brethren in Habs, on the brink of possibility. The new season stretches before us like a freshly-cleaned sheet of ice, unblemished by blades. I ask you, my brothers and sisters, do you stand here with hope in your heart? Or has doubt crept into you like Mikhail Grabovski sneaking behind a ref for protection? This is the time, my friends, to put your doubts aside. You have been baptized by the fire of St.Patrick. You have walked with us through the desert and thirsted for a Cup. It's time now to stand up and say "I believe!" Get thee behind me, Pierre McGuire!
Yea, brothers and sisters, we hear the evil voices. How can it be otherwise? We are haunted through our waking hours by their mockery. TSN tells us the Habs will finish eighteenth in the league, and the Hockey News predicts eleventh in the east, behind the team whose name we are loath to speak. We must pay them no heed and look within our team for truth.
The truth will set us free, my friends. But as an infamous judge once said, "What is truth?"
The truth is our team will not be as bad as it was last year. The truth is the new first line is built to best use each player's strengths. Gomez will get his 50+ assists off 50+ goals by Cammalleri and Kostitsyn because their skills complement each other. Gomez sets up plays. Cammalleri finishes them. Andrei Kostitsyn is more impressive from the right side, and Jacques Martin knows that.
The truth is many games are won and points gained on special teams. The Canadiens managed 93 points last year with no powerplay for two-thirds of the season. This year they start with Markov quarterbacking from the left point, Spacek providing the firepower on the right that the team lacked for most of last year, and opportunistic forwards like Cammalleri and Gionta waiting to cash in around the net. If you consider the number of times the Habs went 0-for-the game on the PP and ended up losing by a close score last year, it's easy to think a few extra goals with the extra man might have translated to a few more points in the standings. Similarly, a team wins more games when it can stop the other team's powerplay. Hal Gill might not be the best skater in the world, but he's a very fine penalty killer. So is Josh Gorges. Glen Metropolit, Maxim Lapierre, Tomas Plekanec and Travis Moen know what they're doing on the PK as well. The Habs' special teams, my friends, will help them win more games this season. Blessed are the penalty killers. They shall inherit the Unsung Hero award.
The truth is the team is faster this year than it was last season, and Jacques Martin is smart enough to use that to his advantage. He'll be running high-speed practices and making quick playmaking decisions and passing on the fly automatic among his players.
The truth is Carey Price has a new focus and a better mindset, and they say goaltending is 90 percent mental. And this year, if there's a problem with Price, there's a coach who won't let the team founder along with him when Jaroslav Halak is able to help. Blessed are the goalies. Theirs is the kingdom of Stanley.
The truth is the defence is more versatile than it was last year. Last season only Andrei Markov could be relied upon to make a consistent breakout pass. Hamrlik and Gorges were okay, but the rest of them couldn't clear the puck effectively if the salvation of their immortal souls depended on it. This season, Markov will be joined by Mara and Spacek who can also start the rush pretty well. Mara can also hit, as can Gill and Hamrlik when required. The defence as a whole can play a better puck possession and transition game than last year's squad, and should be better at clearing the crease as well.
The truth is we, my brothers and sisters, have reason to feel hope. We have a team that others may question because they refuse to look for the truth. They see the changes and they let doubt assail them. But I tell you, do not doubt! Open your hearts and minds to possibility! If we have faith, if we believe, we shall be rewarded in the post-season. Believe, my friends! Put aside the evil voices and believe! Can I have an amen?*
*The Church of Latter Day Habitants reserves the right to rescind this sermon if everything goes to crap by Christmas. We are not responsible for any money lost in unwise hockey pool choices or Proline wagers inspired by this sermon. We are not liable for broken hearts or television screens smashed when Don Cherry is speaking about the team. This sermon is notwithstanding loss of hope when the Habs are down by an embarrassing score to the leafs or Bruins. We reserve the right to bash inflated contracts, underperforming players and unfortunate coaching decisions as required.