When last we trod on the Bell Centre's shiny concrete floors, the place was in raucous playoff mode, and last year's success has clearly whetted appetites.
The joint was more or less packed for the first exhibition tilt of the season (are we even allowed to call them exhibitions now? Preseason encounter seems a little buzzwordy, but that's another discussion) and they cheered, oh how they cheered, for franchise goaltender Carey Price.
Until they didn't.
Forbearance has its limits for jilted fans (whose love affair with Jaro Halak has only intensified since the object of their desire was sent to the Mississippi Valley), and it would appear that limit is about 1:23. That's when Price gave up his first goal, a shot that deflected of Jaro Spacek's stick - in at least one respect Price outdid Halak, who gave up three goals on six shots in his St. Louis debut, yielding three times on five shots.
Anything you can do, I can do better, what?
In the old days, the exhibition, er, preseason schedule was a chance for veterans to work out the kinks, try out some new equipment, and generally goof around. No more.
People pay their money ($280 a pair for top tickets, according to Rejean Tremblay) and they want so see greatness, dammit - as our great and good friend Mike Boone of the Montreal Gazette put it, 'we love our teams, win or tie. And ties don't happen any more."
Apparently the buffoons who booed Price and jeered ironically when he stopped a first-period clear-in have decided the 23-year-old isn't allowed to give up a goal this year, let alone one that carries the pungent aroma of a softie.
These, presumably, are the same Mensa members who boo national anthems and wear blackface make-up to games. There was also a bit of a Philly vibe as some fans eventually decided to heckle the hecklers.
We say good on Hal Gill and Mike Cammalleri for calling out the "fans" - if this is the most educated and savvy crowd the league has to offer, the NHL is in far worse shape than anyone has realized.
That said, Price could certainly have helped his cause with some scintillating saves, as it is the black cloud still lingers over his head - lots of people in the room wanted desperately to boo him, and he gave them an excuse by not being at his best. But have we mentioned it was the first preseason game? Deep, happy breaths, people.
Price wasn't even the worst Hab on the ice (hello Yannick Weber and Frederic St-Denis! Yoo-hoo, Andrew Conboy and Jaro Spacek!), Jacques Martin will have a job analyzing performances given the uneven quality of the opposition and his own charges, who dominated for long swaths.
A few observations on the Canadiens: Aaron Palushaj had a strong game and could end up playing his way into first call-up position. Louis Leblanc looked like a guy who's not that far away from the NHL, Jarred Tinordi looked out his depth in the early going but righted the ship, and Gabriel Dumont must be related to Alex Burrows (how else to explain the way he was singled out by ref Stephane Auger for a pair of ticky-tack penalties?).
Tomas Plekanec was sublime, Max Lapierre looked great on a line with Tom Pyatt and Jeff Halpern, Josh Gorges is in mid-season form, and the Habs first power-play is doing a 1-2-2 thing with Spacek at the point.
Regarding the Broons: These games don't count, and it's a one-game sample, but something tells us Patrice Bergeron is going to have a monster year - he was comfortably the best player on the ice. Nathan Horton looks like a perfect fit, Tuukka Rask is sharp, sharp, sharp (Leafs fans may feel free to burst into tears). Tyler Seguin is super-fast, but had a largely anonymous game even if he earned his first NHL pre-season point on a first period power-play. He also got put on his seat by Spacek on a one-on-one rush. Seguin certainly didn't look out of place, but is clearly feeling his way around, as is fellow rookie Jordan Caron, who some of the Boston scribes like as a dark horse to make the team.