Tuesday, December 19, 2006

12-19-06: Canadiens 5, Sabres 2

Let's open with the facts: The Canadiens now have 45 points in the standings, solidly 2nd in the conference and 5th in the League. They’ve won four consecutive games and haven’t lost in regulation in the past seven. 20-8-5. They’re officially good- so officially, objectively, statistically good that people in the rest of the hockey world are starting to notice. At least half the local fan base already thinks we’ve won #25. Sure, Habs fans are more than a little bit cracked- I mean, that's totally unreasonable at this point in the season. You know what? Screw reasonable. Let the frenzy begin!

1. I don’t believe Higgins was actually injured. I think they took him away to a secret laboratory under the mountain, where they made a dozen bionic copies, enough to last them the rest of the season. I swear he’s even better than he was when he left.

2. Maxim Lapierre: Can we keep him? Please please please pleeeeeease Mr. Carbonneau can we keep him? 4 points in 4 games, 3 of them goals. He and Latendresse looked great together tonight, and along with Streit, this is a 4th line that’s starting to look a helluva lot better than any 4th line has a right to. We’ll have to start calling them the 3A and 3B lines or something.

3. 11 different Habs players got points in this game, I can’t possibly talk about all of them in the amount of space I have, so just a few comments: the 2nd line is looking much better, and Samsonov’s 2 assists were about as spectacular as an assist can be. Markov is the invisible tape that holds this team together, and every game I hope and pray he’ll never leave us. Souray is hoarding points like they’re going out of style. Cristobal Huet: hot chocolate with cayenne pepper, first thing in the morning on a Sunday in mid-February.

4. I’m never going to complain about the Canadiens getting outshot ever again. If it doesn’t bother Huet, and the shots they do take are enough to win games, than obviously they know what they're doing. Better to take a few good shots against an ordinary goalie than a million crap shots at a goalie with supernatural powers.

5. 3 goals for the Canadiens in 5 on 5- meaning enough to have won the game without the hallowed special teams. HA!

6. The Sabres are still good, and more importantly, they’re still five points ahead of Montreal. But if I were them, this loss would make me nervous. I mean, everybody knew the Canadiens might win, but everyone was also predicting a close game- a one-goal differential, overtime, maybe a shootout. Yet this time, the Habs did pummel the Sabres into a gooey pink mess, which would have been unthinkable a month ago, hell, maybe even a week ago. Suddenly the season looks very long, and that lead not so secure as it once was.

The Canadiens are not the best team in the League. All things being equal, a team like the Sabres, or even the Sens, could out-style the Habs every day of the week and twice on Sundays. They’re play is not the prettiest on the ice, it’s not the most skilled, and it’s by far not the most disciplined. Their game is still chaotic, and they still have mood swings. They have to work their asses off for every damn point they get, and a lot of the goals aren’t highlight-reel material (though Higgins seems bent on changing that). But it’s a joyous thing to watch these days, how hard they work and how well they work together, and how much fun they seem to have doing it. On a good night they’ve got as much speed, twice the edge, and three times the creativity of any opposition that gets thrown at them. Sometimes that's enough to win, sometimes it's not.

Ahbabi aren’t the best team in the League, yet.

But nights like this, I’m pretty sure they will be.


Jordi said...

With our recent sweeps, I'm actually less anxious facing the other teams in our divison. Hell the Sens used to give me nightmares and the Leafs - well it's the Leafs.

I agree about the Higgins thing, he's obviously a robot and by the playoffs all our players will look eerily Higgins-like. I want to keep Lapierre now that I've seen him more. He's amazing on the fourth line and well Carbonneau actually now has a much better dilemma of surplus players.

The outshot statistics always made me edgy, but it's some sort of defensive hockey given. Though the downside is that if Huet suddenly has a slump then everyone will be scrambling for the net.

The team is getting together, I mean if they're ugly they're ugly but imagine them playing like this in the playoffs! Okay now I'm just getting too excited. It's December. We're just lucky we're not facing the Ducks next.

E said...

i don't want to give the impression that i think the habs' play is ugly by any means. what i meant is more that most objectively good teams, like the sabres or the ducks, play hockey with a sort of Good Formal Style- they get into this sort of clockwork-like rhythm where everything just clicks along very smoothly. i think it comes from the intersection of a ton of skill and a ton of discipline. the habs don't really have that kind of style going. they still spend a lot of their time scrambling and improvising, which in the end is probably more entertaining and certainly more lovable than Good Formal Style.

what do you think of the 4th line problems now? i personally like latendresse with lapierre, and streit has definitely earned a place there, but what about when begin comes back, to say nothing of murray & downey? okay, i'm fine with saying nothing about murray and downey for the time being, but i'm not sure what to do about begin...

Jordi said...

Hells yeah, you know when Huet gives a juicy rebound all the D's fall in a mechanical manner?

I have to take back half the terrible things I've said about Lats, he's great with Lapierre. And Streit is doing a good job. There's going to be a definite conundrum but I'm going to plug my ears and beg for Crabonneau to do no wrong. You know, like a Habs fan.

Jordi said...

Goddamnit. No more Lappy. Oh well was worth a try.