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Odd whiff of destiny in Montreal

It's not happening. The Montreal Canadiens, who got into these 2010 playoffs by the whites of their fingernails are not getting past the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. No way.

It's just too tall an order and the Canadiens are too short a team. (Scott Gomez could stand on Brian Gionta's shoulders and still not be big enough to ride the Goliath at Six Flags.) The Penguins have a captain (guy by the name of Crosby) who could lead you through hellfire and back. Montreal doesn't have a captain at all. As ex-Hab Vincent Damphousse said to a CanWest reporter, "To not have a captain is kind of weird."

The Canadiens? They don't make playoff runs anymore. That was the old Canadiens, the team that dominated hockey for a blip of, oh, 35 seasons. Now it's been 17 years since Montreal won a Stanley Cup. Plenty of hardcore Canadiens' fans, the kind that bleed blanc on the road and rouge at home, weren't yet born or were wearing diapers and playing with their Larry Robinson Big Bird dolls back then. Heck, I'd bet PK Subban himself, that nifty new Montreal defenseman (he's 20, with the poise of a mahatma) was eating Kraft dinner with his bib on the last time that the Canadiens won it all.

Beat Pittsburgh? A team that won 30 playoff games the past two springs? Next thing you'll be telling me is that this year's eighth-seeded Montreal squad could knock off a Capitals club that finished 33 points better in the regular season season with the most dynamic goal-scorer in the game. You'll suggest that Les Habs could do a thing like that by winning three straight games, including Game 7 on the road. Yeah, right. Go tell it on Capitol Hill.

Okay, I admit it. Some funny things have been happening in this Canadiens postseason. Not ha-ha funny, but funny like maybe portentous. Such as playing without injured defensemen Andrei Markov and Jaroslav Spacek and still holding Pittsburgh to a single goal in Game 2 on Sunday. The Habs defensemen who did play in that game had a sort of quiet and unflashy determination. I suppose you Montreal believers will point out that when a team gets 23 minutes of strong, committed hockey out of Roman Hamrlik, anything is possible.

And the goals that Montreal has been scoring, well, they do have kind of a fateful aura about them. Like the one that Mike Cammalleri (another Smurf)scored off a long rebound. All of sudden there he was kicking up the puck to himself like Lionel Messi, then swatting it out of midair like Gary Gait -- a combination soccer and lacrosse move that, when the puck ends up in the back of the net, makes all the sense in the world.

Of course, you can't expect this Jaroslav Halak to keep playing the way he has been playing. What goalie can? The world record for standing on one's head, as far as I can make out, is a little over three days. And Montreal fans expect Halak to do it for six more weeks? Nuts.

Except for this little factoid: Halak is now 10-0 (that's ten and oh) in games this season in which he's made more than 40 saves. He's 13-1 when he's made 35 or more. A team can pepper him with pucks, spray him with shots, probably even just pepper-spray him and he keeps kicking the problems aside.

After Cammalleri scored late in Game 2, zipping one past Marc-Andre Fleury, he explained to reporters, "I used the element of surprise." He could have said "we" and he could have been referring to this whole Canadiens lineup.

"It's a lot of fun," said Subban of the NHL postseason, an event to which he is only this spring becoming acquainted. "You have to come out and enjoy it."

Indeed. Have your fun as a Canadien, PK (and continued good luck on the PK, Canadiens). It's the NHL playoffs and anything can happen. Except for beating the Penguins. Uh-uh. No chance.

Right?

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