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RED FISHER, The Gazette
Published: Saturday, December 30, 2006

Come back with me to early September. Canadiens owner George N. Gillett Jr., fresh from a trip to Europe, is on the telephone with belated birthday greetings, which is nice. However, it's not long before he gets around to the subject of the 2006-07 season.

"What do you think we've got coming?" he asked.

"Guy Carbonneau, that's who."

"Oh," Gillett said.

Gillett was told that going into the season, it appeared that Carbonneau didn't have much more than last year's team to work with. What he did have were a blizzard of questions involving key (and expensive) personnel. However, the good news was that the emotion Carbonneau brought to the game during his 19-season career promised he'd be the best thing the team had going for it.

Emotion always was the best part of Carbonneau's brilliant career as a player (why isn't my friend Carbo in the Hockey Hall of Fame?) and if you're wondering why the Canadiens have been doing so well thus far, it's because the kindly ol' coach has his troops playing with emotion on most nights.

"I'm surprised," a hockey person, whose opinion I respect, mentioned recently. "I really didn't think he could do it, but he's got that team playing with lots of emotion."

So here they are No. 3 overall in the Eastern Conference behind Buffalo and Atlanta (No. 4 when the first three seedings go to division leaders) almost halfway through the NHL schedule.

You can say all you want about how well Saku Koivu and Cristobal Huet have played, how productive Sheldon Souray has been, how much quiet leadership Andrei Markov brings to the arena, and how much the power play and penalty-killing teams have improved, but if you don't play with emotion, fuhgeddabouditt!

Only days before the start of the season, Carbo made a point of mentioning the importance of the Big E.

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