Last night was much more than a hockey game, of course. But even leaving the pre-game ceremony aside, last night's game was more than just a regular-season matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. As Carey Price put it, "We all played inspired hockey." The Canadiens played like champions last night.
When two rivals meet, you can forget their regular-season records. Rivalries bring out the best and worst in teams, and all that matters for these games is who wins, not who has the better record overall.
But even then, the Canadiens rose above an ordinary rivalry game.
Last night, Carey Price channeled Patrick Roy, with all the swagger, cockiness, and skill.
Stephane Auger and the otherwise irreprovable Bill McCreary did their part. It was like seeing a replay of the calls that led to Maurice Richard assaulting an official, with one-sided calls that saw Montreal have to kill off TWO extended five-on-three penalties.
And kill them off they did. Along with Price's sensational performance, the penalty killers were equally magnificent. If the refereeing was circa 1955, the Canadiens' play was vintage 1960.
And Mike Cammalleri (sorry 31, but you're going to have to fight 21,000 other female Habs fans who want to marry him): a hat trick from the Canadiens' best player. It seems he has silenced all his critics who said he could not produce without Jarmome Iginla.
In truth, this was not a regular-season game. The Canadiens will probabaly not play the kind of hockey they did last very frequently this year. Last night, they were possessed. The team we saw last night was not the 2009-2010 Canadiens - they were the ghosts of Richard and Morenz, Plante and Geoffrion. They took over the bodies of this otherwise mediocre team and dominated their opponents. It was good to see. Because now we can take Ken Dryden's advice and move on from the past, and let Montreal focus on the present and future. But we can remember that when Montreal celebrated its Centennial, its team gave a performance worthy of being remembered as one of the best ever played.
Some random thoughts from the game:
How cool was it to see Patrick Roy skate out, in full uniform? We got a peak before as he was standing behind the curtain, and seeing the C-33 helmet was chilling. Even better, we all go treated to seeing him with his mask on, taking shots, looking not all that different from the man we who stood in the paint taking warmup shots back in 1993.
Very classy move by Gordie Howe to being out the sweater of his rival number 9, Maurice Richard.
Too bad Ryan White and Tom Pyatt didn't play. I see White is going back to Hamilton. See you back again soon, Ryan.
Seriously. When you SLASH the otehr team's goalie, don't act surprised when you get shoved to the ice. And if you're a referee, don't call two penalties when a team stands up against that kind of shit.
Hal Gill, welcome back.