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The playoff atmosphere was alive and well at the Bell Centre

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It may not have been the playoffs, but it might as well could have been.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

When I walked outside Tuesday in downtown Montreal, there was that buzz. If you’ve been to Montreal in the spring, you know what buzz I’m talking about. Where everywhere you turn you see people in Canadiens jerseys or talking about hockey. It’s not always there, but when it is you can feel it.

You not only know there’s a game in Montreal that night, there’s a big game in Montreal that night.

Tuesday night’s game wasn’t a playoff game, but it felt like one. The crowd with spontaneous ‘Go Habs Go’ chants, the emotion after every goal was scored. The buzz made it into the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens may not make the official NHL postseason, but they are in the playoffs right now. It’s not a seven-game series, but it’s a three-game round robin involving other teams who have a slight head start (look, I never said it was simple).

This is a fun time. The last times that the Canadiens would be fighting for a playoff this late in the season the scenarios were either far fetched, or coming on the heels of an epic collapse where expectations were high.

Now, it is a young group exceeding all expectations hoping to get back to the playoffs with two games to go.

Montreal is heading towards unprecedented territory. Their 43 wins and 94 points would be the most the Canadiens franchise ever had in a season they missed the playoffs. Their .588 points percentage would be second (to .605 in 1969-70). This is not an average team trying to be the best of a subpar group. This is a legitimately good team that may be on the outside looking in. Carolina and Columbus would be as well.

So while there’s no special opening ceremony before the games, there’s no Ginette Reno singing the anthems, and there’s no special logo on the Bell Centre ice, make no mistake. The game on Tuesday night and the final two games on Thursday and Saturday are playoff games. And everybody knows what’s at stake. You can feel it.