Canada

What the Puck: Montreal hockey fans contracting Canadiens virus

The Habs are off to a great start to the season and this has even the most grumbly fans conceding this team looks like the real deal.

Jan 21, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen (34) makes a save on Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat (53) in the third period in a game at Rogers Arena. Montreal won 7 -3. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Are you having fun yet? I sure am.

Five games in, the Canadiens are scoring like the Flying Frenchmen of the 1970s, the blue-line corps looks more solid than at any time since Andrei Markov left town, and it appears they can beat any team in the we’re-happy-to-be-hosers Canadian division.

Welcome to the upside-down hockey universe of 2021. How crazy is this world? I’m downright ecstatic about the team, about general manager Marc Bergevin’s off-season moves and, nuttiest of all, am joking around on Twitter with Canadiens PR mogul Paul Wilson who has often been none-too-amused by my scribblings.

I tweeted the other day to say that the bleu-blanc-rouge looked mighty good thus far and that even my most grumbly Habs-fan friends are beginning to think this squad is the real deal. That led Wilson to suggest I’d been hit by a new mutation of the virus and that I should get tested tout de suite.

It’s a love-in, kind of like the newfound bromance between TSN 690 host Tony Marinaro and Bergevin. What can you complain about at this point? Well, I could complain about Carey Price and you’d have to agree that three games in for St. Carey, he has looked decidedly un-saint-like. In fact, Price has looked like he’s looked the past couple of seasons, which is inconsistent. He has already let in five goals in a game twice, has a 3.50 goals-against average and a 1-0-2.

But for the first time in the Price era, the success of the team does not rest solely on his shoulders. Even better, for the first time in the Bergevin era, Price has a very good backup in Jake Allen. So if Price goes into one of his frequent funks, head coach Claude Julien has another option.

Did I mention that, as of Friday morning, Jeff Petry and Toffoli were tied (with five other players) for the lead in the National Hockey League scoring race? But there is the small detail of the remaining 51 games to play for the Canadiens.

When was the last time you were so excited about a Saturday night Montreal-Vancouver matchup? And Wilson is right. This Habs virus is contagious. My 20-year-old son and his friends had all deserted the NHL during the past few seasons. Fed up with the drab Canadiens, they’d mostly turned to the big personalities in the NBA.

But guess what? These youngsters are back big-time this year and loving what they’re seeing. It is indeed a crazy world.

bkelly@postmedia.com

twitter.com/brendanshowbiz

This is huge. I got grief for recently writing that Bergevin has spent to the cap and gone all-in because the pressure is on him. Well, it is. But the pressure’s also on Julien. Bergevin’s given him a team and he has to take it at least a round or two into the playoffs. Failure is not one of the choices. So if Price goes into one of his shaky periods, the coach will put Allen in the driver’s seat. He will. You read it here first.

These are early days. Montreal has often burst out of the gates in October and then faded fast with a January hangover. But this feels different. This outfit looks good against anyone in the Canadian division and you know the other teams are eyeing Montreal with a little fear.

And some of those other Canadian teams have chinks in their armour. Toronto’s bottom six and defence are questionable. The Oilers are already in a goaltending crisis. The Canucks have been disappointing. So you really can dream of the concept that Montreal will win the Canadian Cup and advance to the semifinals. It’s possible.

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