Montreal has earned its swagger

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Jeremaine Copeland recognizes that invincible feeling surging through the Montreal Alouettes locker-room these days.

The Als have made great starts commonplace the last five seasons under head coach Don Matthews, including a current 7-0 record and sole claim to first place in the CFL East.

An eighth win tonight against the 4-4 Calgary Stampeders (8 p.m., McMahon Stadium) would tie a Montreal team record.

Copeland's four seasons with the Als (2001-04) always featured fast starts, including the '02 campaign when the team also opened with seven straight wins.

"It feels good to get off to a strong start but the hard thing is maintaining it for the full season," said Copeland.

"We ended up losing two in a row (mid-season) but we were a pretty cocky team, very confident and we had a nice little swagger."

The 13-5 Als that season strode confidently into the East final, trashing Toronto before upsetting the Eskimos, right in Edmonton, to claim Copeland's only Grey Cup title.

"It feels like your destiny is in your hands and you can predict the outcome of where you'll play in the playoffs," Copeland said.

Beating the Als is never a simple task as Montreal's defence leads several key categories. It also enjoys a four-game winning streak at McMahon.

Stampeders head coach Tom Higgins doesn't expect the veteran Als squad to fall into an extended tailspin any time soon.

"What happens when you have an experienced head coach like Don Matthews is they realize that it's inevitable you'll lose one and it's like water off a duck's back and you keep going," Higgins said.

Higgins argues the Als deserve full marks for their record, even though some critics point to last-minute wins and close calls against weaker opponents to suggest Montreal isn't as elite as its record.

The stats prove otherwise, with the Als enjoying a league-leading average of 29.6 points per game while dominating on both sides of the ball.

"You can play mental gymnastics like that but it's just not true," Higgins said. "They've won every game they've lined up to play and that's the bottom line. You could have said the same thing about B.C. last year (going 11-0) but you have to put as much distance as you can between you and the rest of the field."


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