clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A great start is just a great start

New, comments

The Canadiens are off to a fantastic start, but there have been iterations of the team that didn't start as well, and were glorious. Tempered expectations are best.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made of the fantastic start that the Montreal Canadiens are enjoying this season. Sitting at 7-0, it's definitely fair to talk about it a lot, and the team deserves all due credit for how they've been able to string together these wins.

I was at the game on Tuesday night, and the atmosphere as the crowd spilled out into the streets of Montreal was jubilant. I turned to one fan sporting a smile even wider than my own as we stepped out of the Bell Centre doors, and said to him a phrase I rarely utter due to my own superstitions: "Ça sent la Coupe!"

It's hard not to get carried away like that. It's an absolute dream of a start to the season, and although I'm not usually someone to pile on early-season expectations, seven straight wins with the seventh coming by way of a Carey Price shutout just does that to me. I think it's understandable, because the L.A. Kings didn't do it, the defending cup champion Blackhawks didn't do it, but my favourite sports team on the planet did.

But it is now time to temper expectations, not just for me but for all of my fellow Habs fans..If you look at the greatest teams in the history of the Canadiens, I think there are two that stand above the rest. Neither of those teams went 7-0 to start their seasons, but they did both win the Stanley Cup, and they are two of the greatest squads ever assembled.

1955-56: 5-1-1, finished 45-15-10

It was the year following the Richard Riot, which only ended when Maurice Richard himself took to the radio and promised all of Montreal to return, and win the Stanley Cup that year. He followed through on that promise, and the team did so without a shadow of a doubt that they were the best team in the league. This team personified the term "powerhouse," and it isn't hard to see why that is.

First of all, they had Maurice Richard. Even at 34, he was a beast of a hockey player, and put up 38 goals and 33 assists on the season. They also had a certain 24-year old man named Jean Beliveau on the team, who would lead them in scoring, putting up 47 goals and 41 assists. Add in a supporting cast featuring guys like Doug Harvey, Bert Olmstead, Henri Richard, Bernie Geoffrion, and Dickie Moore, then you get a world-beating team that simply can't be stopped.

In net? Well, that was Jacques Plante, who set a Canadiens record with 42 wins in the regular season, which was only beaten last year by Carey Price. His goals-against average was a measly 1.86 on the year, and with the firepower he had in front of him, one can imagine they were tough to beat.

The 2015-16 Montreal Canadiens are good, and they have a better start than the 55-56 team for sure, but I don't think any fan wants to be comparing them to the former. After all, the core of the former would win another four consecutive cups after the one they grabbed.

1976-77: 5-2-0, finished 60-8-12

This is probably the greatest hockey team ever assembled. The 1970's Canadiens were always a powerhouse, but the crown jewel of that decade is definitely the 76-77 squad. They only lost eight games. they were first in goals for (387) and first in goals against (171) on the year. In three playoff series, they lost only two games against the Islanders in the semi-finals, and swept the other two series en route to the Stanley Cup.

Guy Lafleur scored 56 goals, and added a whopping 80 assists. His other winger was Steve Shutt, who scored 60 goals and 45 assist. Seriously, they had two 50-plus goal scorers on one team who both eclipsed the 100-point mark; of course they won the Stanley Cup. Their supporting cast was also insane, featuring the likes of Rejean Houle, Jacques Lemaire, Pete Mahovlich, Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard, Bob Gainey, and Mario Tremblay. It was a veritable dream team.

And that dream team's goaltender? Well that was none other than Ken Dryden. This wasn't the year that he tied Jacques Plante's 42 win season, but he did manage a very respectable record of 41-6-8. Dryden also had the luxury of one of the best backups ever in Michel Larocque, who went 19-2-4. The pair would end up sharing the Vezina trophy that year, which is fair when you consider just how dominant they were.

Again, the current iteration of the Canadiens may be good, but do we really want to be lining them up against any of the 70's teams, let alone this one? They have a better starting record, sure, but if they only lose eight games this year I will shave my head, and I'm very attached to my shoulder-length locks.

While the way things are going right now is something that all Habs fans have a right to bask in, it would be unwise to start piling on expectations. Though it does seem that the Cup window is open for the Habs now, the fact that they're off to the best start in team history is just that; a really good start. They have a long way to go before we can start comparing them to teams that were known as "Les Glorieux."

However, if they win tonight, and you find yourself thinking aloud "Ça sent la Coupe!" I will not blame you. We're all bound to have that thought once or twice as long as this streak continues.