You have to love that new season smell. It all gets rolling tonight as the Canadiens meet the Maple Leafs in Toronto for the 703rd time in the regular season. I don’t need to show you the stats. We always win. They always lose and Maurice Richard is the first, second, and third star in every game. Or so it goes in the classic book by Roch Carrier, “The Hockey Sweater”.
The truth is that Habs-Leafs contests have been wildly unpredictable in recent years. Blow-outs, nail-biters and snoozefests oh my! Tonight will be interesting from many standpoints. Will Price or Auld be in net? Will the defense hold without Markov and Hamrlik? Will the team respond to missing its best goalscoring threat in Michael Cammalleri? How will the third and fourth lines fare without everyone’s new Steve Begin – Ryan White? What Leaf’s team will show up – the Brian Burke thug-a-thon, or the re-vamped group of motivated youngsters who will support their superstar Phil Kessel?
One thing is for certain: there is no love lost between these two clubs. The boo birds will be out in full force, and as is the case whenever Montreal plays Toronto (in whichever arena), there will be plenty of crowd support on both sides. The rivalry is embedded within our culture. The games are an athletic expression of our national story. The people in the stands know it, and the players can feel it. No doubt there will be nerves for the first game of the regular season, but when the game is a rivalry game such as this – the meaning is magnified. I hope that the Canadiens can find a way to weather the opening assault that the Leafs will no doubt try to bring, with a crowd whipped into a frenzied release of months of hockey-less, pent up energy. If we play smart and avoid early penalties I like our chances.
Can you believe that the regular season is here?
Go Habs Go!!!