Saturday, December 02, 2006

12-2-06: Canadiens 4, Leafs 3

You think you can predict the Canadiens this year? Ever? In any given game? On any given play? GOOD FUCKING LUCK. The only truth is that there is no truth, the only constant the total absence of consistency. They win the games that they ought to lose and lose games that they ought to win. They play beautifully and fail, and play horribly and triumph. They set up perfect scoring chances that go nowhere, and then pull goals out of a totally different nowhere just when you think they’ve given up. At least it’s always worth watching all the way to the end.

1. Firstly, I hope Rivet isn’t actually injured. He got hit in the wrist with a shot in the 2nd, disappeared into the dressing room and didn’t return subsequently. Hopefully it’s not serious- sure, the Habs have more defensemen than they know what to do with right now, but I like the guy and it wouldn’t be fun if he had to miss future games.

2. It would be easy to read this game as pretty much about the captains. Sundin was really the strongest consistent presence on the Leafs end, putting on tons of pressure, but Koivu won the game for the Habs, with two goals in the third and one in the shootout. The first of these was extremely entertaining, right after a face-off, as though he’d just decided that if he wanted this shit done right, he was just going to have to do it himself. Usually Koivu is a very team-play sort of guy, sets up his wingers for the goals, but given some of the problems with the lines lately, maybe that’s not the best policy. Anyway, I usually don’t bother praising Koivu, because he’s obviously wonderful, but he made this game. More than congratulations, pure gratitude.

3. As for the rest of the Leafs, Kaberle and McCabe are really impressive. Too bad the rest of the team isn’t. Like I said: oatmeal and ferrets. Tucker remains the sickest joke in hockey (and by the way, if you can’t love the Sabres for their game, love them for their bloggers: check out this analysis of the creature that is Darcy Tucker.)

4. As for the rest of the Habs, the things that are good remained good, and the things that are not good remained not good. The Good: Markov- subtle, smart, effective, and somehow always exactly where you want him to be. The 3rd line (Perezhogin, Johnson, Bonk) remains the most reliable, not always perfect, but always working twice as hard as everyone else on the ice on either team. The Not-Good: I hate to jump on the fan-whining bandwagon, but I have to be honest. Everyone tells me that Kovalev, Samsonov, and Ryder are great players, that in previous seasons they have been dazzling. This season, whatever abilities they have, we haven’t seen much of. I can’t explain it, I don’t know what it means, I don’t know why hockey skill seems to ebb and flow within specific players and throughout teams. I don’t know that there’s a rational explanation for it, I’m certainly not prepared to assign blame, but for whatever reason, these guys have lost their mojo, and this team can’t afford that. Given these strange-but-persistant slumps, and Higgins’ long absence, it’s a total miracle that the Habs have not only held on, but risen in the standings.

5. Today’s irony: less than a week after specifically saying in an interview that he’d never get selected for a shootout, but that if he ever did, he’d probably try a deke, Souray gets chosen for a shootout and wins the game, with a deke.

6. Cristobal Huet: better than a basketful of fluffy, venomous attack-kittens.

I love the Canadiens, but I don’t understand them. Whatever forces drive ahbabi­ are mysterious, mercurial things with a wicked sense of humor and very little sense of justice. They remain a team more shot against than shooting, unable to play more than 2 periods at full speed, and yet: they win. The gods of hockey smile on Montreal.

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