The God of Les Glorieux

TORONTO (June 24) — The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. The Habs weren’t presented the trophy after their 4–1 dismantling of the Golden Knights at T–Mobile Arena.

But, trust me, they won the Cup.

I was dead–wrong with my prediction that Vegas would roll over Montreal in its semifinal clash. Just as I was dead–wrong that the Maple Leafs — after bolting to a 3–1 lead in the opening round of the playoffs — would easily finish off the Canadiens. But, I cannot be wrong about Montreal winning the 2021 Stanley Cup.

Because it already happened.

The final straw in this repeat movie was Tuesday night’s match in the desert. When the Canadiens — on paper, the weakest of the 16 playoff qualifiers — made the Golden Knights look like green vomit. When Carey Price stamped his name on the Conn Smythe Trophy. The next game of import in the National Hockey League will be the regular–season opener in October. All ensuing competition in this tournament, including the de facto Stanley Cup final, is meaningless. And, all because the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup on June 22 in Las Vegas.

The Canadiens always win the Stanley Cup when something goofy happens in the playoffs. It is pre–ordained. By whom or what, I cannot tell you. But, a higher authority is at work. As it was in 1971, when Ken Dryden came out of nowhere to stun, in the first round, the greatest club in NHL history relative to the rest of the league. The Boston Bruins of 1970–71 had no competition. They destroyed the record book with 57 wins, 121 points and 399 scores. Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr combined for 113 goals and 291 points. The Bruins lost only four of 39 regular–season games at home. Then, two out of four in the opening round, including the decisive seventh match against Dryden and the Habs, who went on to eliminate Minnesota and Chicago for a Stanley Cup that no one anticipated.

The inexplicable force came back in 1986, voodoo–ing Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers in the second round against Calgary when an outlet pass by defenseman Steve Smith, in Game 7 at the Northlands Coliseum, caromed into his own net off the back of goalie Grant Fuhr’s leg. With the betting favorite gone, the Canadiens — having survived overtime in Game 7 of the first round against Hartford — filled the void by knocking off the Flames in the Stanley Cup final. As with Dryden 15 years earlier, a rookie, Patrick Roy, prevailed in net for Montreal.

In 1993, the Maple Leafs were party to the black magic. First, however, came the hidden hand of fate when the two–time defending–champion Pittsburgh Penguins were shocked by the much–inferior New York Islanders in the second round — someone named David Volek sending Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis into summer with an overtime tally in Game 7 at the old Civic Arena. In case you’re wondering, Pittsburgh finished a paltry 32 points ahead of the Islanders in the regular season. Up stepped Roy and the Habs, yet again, by copping 10 of their 16 playoff wins in overtime; still a Stanley Cup record for one tournament… and sure to remain so.

Throughout that spring of ’93, it appeared the Maple Leafs were destiny’s child. Likely to provide the Canadiens a stiff challenge in the championship round. Until the God of Les Glorieux interfered. Yet again.

Hell, you know the story…

The Buds, needing to score in overtime of Game 6 at Los Angeles in the semifinals, were sure to accomplish their task when Gretzky, then skating for L.A., sliced open Doug Gilmour’s chin with the blade of his stick. There were 16,005 spectators; 40 players and three game officials in the Los Angeles Forum that night. Among that group of 16,048 people, only three did not witness the Gretzky infraction. All, by sheer coincidence, were wearing striped jerseys: Fraser, the referee; linesmen Kevin Collins and Ron Finn. Gretzky, with one foot in the shower, was granted playoff clemency. And, he, of course, kept the Kings alive by flipping a rebound over Toronto goalie Felix Potvin. The Great One then demolished the Leafs, two nights later, with a hattrick in Game 7. The fickle finger of fate had tickled the Canadiens once more. After their exhaustive triumph over the Blue and White, the Kings were running on fumes. Montreal won another “did that really happen?” Stanley Cup in five games. Three in extra time.

So, really, it doesn’t matter whether the 2021 Canadiens play the New York Islanders or Tampa Bay Lightning in the series of exhibition matches that begins next week. Even if you know it’ll be the Islanders. After all, the unseen spirit of the Holy Habs has been giving the Maple Leafs double–endoscopy all spring — the Canadiens, in person, going up the back–side of Leafs Nation; the Islanders, with ageless Lou, about to venture down the throat.

Honestly? The divine intervention has been richly earned. As noted, above, it didn’t start until four years after 1967, the last time Toronto upended Montreal in anything that matters. When you think of the buffoons that have since lorded over Carlton and Bay streets — out of respect for others, Harold Ballard is the only name I’ll mention; he being the Chief Buffoon — in what realm are the Leafs entitled to constructive karma? Even today, after the indignity of the opening–round collapse against Montreal, the key figures in blue and white (Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas, Mitch Marner) insist, publicly, they will change not a thing. While their fans roast on the proverbial spit. Wouldn’t you acknowledge, even begrudgingly, that the Leafs are unworthy of sublime collaboration?

It has resulted in Montreal winning the Stanley Cup — inexplicably — for the fourth time since 1967; Tuesday night, in Las Vegas, providing destiny’s dispatch. Watch the de facto Cup final, if you wish.

But, be prepared for the inevitable coronation.


11 comments on “The God of Les Glorieux

  1. Howard,
    1) I would argue that the Habs won the Stanley Cup in game 3 vs. Vegas, in a game that VGK had absolutely dominated the Habs, the gross error by Fleury gifted Montreal the tying goal with less than 2 mims to go, and Habs win in OT.

    2) You left an important chapter of the Hockey Gods’ intervention in favor of the Habs in the SCF’s in 1993: The turning point of the series for the Canadiens came late in the third period of game two. With the Kings up 1-0 in the series and leading by a score of 2–1, Canadiens head coach Jacques Demers called for a measurement of the curve of Kings defenceman Marty McSorley’s stick. The stick was deemed illegal and McSorley was given a two-minute minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. As it was late in the game Demers pulled Patrick Roy, producing a 6-on-4 advantage for the Canadiens. Eric Desjardins scored from the point to tie the game at two and force overtime. And of course the Habs went on to win that game in OT, and win another 3 in a row to win the cup.

  2. Howard I am in total agreement. I actually called it after the Habs smothered the Vegas fowards like Mark Stone and his 9 million dollar (boat anchor) contract. I am 70 and have not had my soul totally bored out by the Habs hand of God good fortune as I did witness 3 cups for the Leafs in the 60’s and the Jays 2 world titles plus the Raptors championship. Montreal fans like to change the subject when I talk about their lack of MLB or an NBA team..Look at the karma happening…Tavares down in game 1…Scheifele for Winnipeg out for series in game one…and now Kucherov who leads the offence may be out for Tampa Bay whom the Habs will probably play next…..Actually if they play the Islanders the Habs may have their hands full as the Isles have no stars other than Barzal and rely on high energy fast hockey like the Habs do…..

  3. The Habs have the Hockey Gods on their side. Hell, the Habs are the sons of the Hockey Gods. If the Hockey Gods had a team, the Habs are that team. And Vegas are cursed. The Hockey Gods do not deem Vegas worthy, too soon, haven’t paid their dues, no way. They always seem to stub their big toe on something (see the Fleury goal). Habs. Hockey’s legendary team, the New York Yankees of the NHL. It’s just how it is. Well said Howard, I totally get it eh.

  4. Now you’ve done it Howard!
    Just like the guy mentioning that a shutout in the making with 10 minutes to go in the game, or the announcer talking about a potential no-hitter in the 8th inning.
    You’re to blame Howard if LV comes back to win the series. 🙂

  5. Unlike the Leafs, Montreal has a better balanced team and more astute hockey people running their front office. They’ve certainly earned my respect and as a Canadian I pick the Habs to go all the way,

  6. Montreal and elite goaltending go together like the Leafs and lackluster defence. No matter how much things change, they stay the same. I refer to it as the ghosts in Montreal, which clearly moved to the bell center from the forum along with the original team.

    One question I’ve been asking myself … Do the Habs get past the Leafs (same question with Edmonton vs Winnipeg), if referees are calling the game by regular season standards. Based on the premise above, of course they do. But supernatural assistance aside, do they?

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