There's a facebook campaign for everything. Right now, a bunch of people are lobbying Hockey Night in Canada to play a song called "Feels Like '93," in honour of the Habs current playoff run. The thing is, I suspect the people who've signed up for this group either weren't old enough to appreciate '93 or don't remember what it actually felt like. This year is nothing like '93.
The Canadiens in 1993 were sixth in the league, with 102 regular-season points. The team featured four players...Damphousse, Muller, Bellows and Lebeau...with eighty points or more, including at least thirty goals apiece. They scored 326 goals, good for ninth in the league, and were seventh in goals against, with 280. In nets, the Habs had mercurial superstar Patrick Roy, who was responsible for 31 of the team's 48wins. There were no European-born players on the roster, and captain Guy Carbonneau led with hard work and steady defence, and by his passionate fire on and off the ice.
In contrast, this year's injury-ravaged Habs scraped into the playoffs as the lowest-ranked of the sixteen qualifying teams, with an unimpressive 88 points. The team's top scorer was Tomas Plekanec, with seventy points including 25 goals. Nobody else on the team cracked sixty. The Canadiens were 26th in the league with 210 goals scored, and they allowed 218, for a -8 goal differential. The biggest topic of discussion among fans, analysts, and, it would appear, the coaching staff, for much of the season, has been whether Carey Price or Jaro Halak is really the number-one goalie. Seven players come from Europe, including the leading scorer, number-one goalie and best defenceman. The team has no captain at all.
In '93, the Habs were well-positioned for a playoff run. They were third in their division behind the Bruins and Nordiques, but the Nords, whom they would face in the first round, were only a point better in the regular season. After dropping the first two games in Quebec City, the Canadiens rallied and quickly dispatched their provincial rivals, winning the next four games. This year's Canadiens started off their post-season against the President's Trophy-winning Capitals, who finished a full 33 points ahead of them. They won it only after coming back from a hair-raising series 3-1 deficit for just the second time in a hundred years of franchise history.
The 1993 Habs got a lot of help from other teams, too. The mighty Bruins, who'd been a problem for the Habs all year, fell in four straight games to the lowly, fourth-place Sabres. The Canadiens then ended the Sabres' delusions of grandeur by sweeping them for an easy second round. Their third round opponent was another upset winner. The Islanders somehow tumbled the number-one team in the league, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Like the Sabres, though, the Isles' luck ran out after their big victory, and they fell to the Habs in five.
This year's team is getting no help from anyone outside their own dressing room. They're doing all the giant-killing themselves, and doing it in the face of poor scheduling, iffy officiating and serious injuries to important players.
No, this year feels nothing like '93. That year had its amazing run of overtime victories, but there was an awful lot of luck involved in that Cup win, and after a lot of the victories, we fans were left feeling that, "Whoa, that was close!" It felt like a good team that managed to miraculously get itself out of trouble at the last second more often than not. This is different. This team is winning because it works like a bunch of Clydesdales to create its own luck. This underdog bunch has gathered the goodwill of not only its own fanbase, but also that of others who would never have cheered for them in '93.
It's a nice idea to play that song on HNIC, but it's just nostalgia. This year's Canadiens are living for the moment and themselves. Ken Dryden said on the evening of the great Centennial game that, while it's nice to have the history and the Stanley Cups of the past as part of your team's legacy, it's time for the current players to write their own story.
Guys like Jaro Halak, Mike Cammalleri, Hal Gill and Brian Gionta are doing exactly that. They're writing a tale of honour and teamwork, effort and good execution, pride and courage. It's their story, and, aside from the winning, it has nothing to do with 1993.