It must feel like forever to the die-hard Montreal Canadiens fans since the Habs have been this good. Actually, it was 1993 when Montreal defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings to win its 24th Stanley Cup.
But that is the past.
To put it into some sort of perspective, Guy Carbonneau, now Montreal's head coach, was one of the key figures on ice to that championship. With three games remaining in the 2007-08 NHL season, this edition of the Montreal Canadiens was a long time coming—and should be going a long way.
At the All-Star break, the Canadiens were early contenders for a playoff seed. Cristobal Huet was leading the pack most of the way, but Montreal seemed a bit inconsistent, winning one game then losing the next.
Alex Kovalev, the team's leading scorer, was having his best season since his days with the New York Rangers, but could not carry the whole team on his shoulders up front.
On the blue line, Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov pulled the Habs together in terms of defense, but a winning team should hardly ever rely on defensemen to win games—only to secure them.
However, Montreal slowly moved to the top of the Eastern Conference and Kovalev sizzled. He currently has 79 points, including 34 goals. Secondary scoring from the Kostitsyn's, Koivu, Plekanec, and Higgins began to warm up as well. Even the slumping Michael Ryder seemed to be finding a groove.
Then the trade period came along and everyone was shocked.
Montreal traded starting goalie Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals for what seemed like nothing. It would be naive to say the city of Montreal did not panic.
But this is what Carey Price is used to. He fits into these high level situations where everything seems to be on the line. Just last year he lead the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal's farm team) to a Calder Cup as an AHL rookie. The year before, he was team Canada's star goaltender, helping them win their third straight gold medal at the World Junior Championship. To top it all off, Price is an NHL rookie this year.
The expectations are high, but GM Bob Gainey obviously has a lot of confidence in the 20 year old. Price is known for staying calm and keeping cool—something the Canadiens will be expected to do all the way to the Stanley Cup.
And it is possible.
Montreal is 7-2-1 in the last 10 games with all four lines contributing, and officially clinched a playoff spot with a 7-5 romp over rival Ottawa Senators. The future of the Montreal Canadiens is now, and the Stanley Cup looks to be closer and closer in their reach, every game.
Only the playoffs will tell though. If the Canadiens continue to play as well as they have in the second half of the season, history just may repeat itself like in 1993.