Thursday, December 28, 2006

12-27-06: Canadiens 4, Capitals 1

Remember when you were a kid, and your mother would always warn you about the insidious evil known as peer pressure? ‘Peer pressure’ is a term usually reserved for schoolchildren, the idea being that because school is such a restricted social environment, the rewards for conformity so sweet and the punishments for deviation so harsh, that kids will give up their sense of morality and even their sense of self and follow the mass opinion, whether or not it’s right.

Well, peer pressure doesn’t disappear as we get older, it just gets subtler and a different set of names. It becomes the ‘conventional wisdom’ or ‘common sense’- those things that we just assume to be good or true simply because everybody knows so. Such things are pervasive in hockey. The tenets of what defines good play and proper form are apparently set, everybody just knows the good way and the bad way to play. This is why all hockey fans believe they can solve their team’s problems better than the team itself- because we know what the True Hockey is.

The poor Canadiens, in spite of their success, still have to deal with a lot of peer pressure. Fortunately, the atmosphere in Montreal suits them for it, but still, I can’t watch the ‘objective’ hockey people discuss the Habs without wanting to rush to their defense like an overprotective mother, as if they somehow needed my help. All the other kids jeer and say things like, ‘‘You can’t possibly score when the other team has a 3 man advantage!’, or “20 minutes in minor penalties is too much!”, or “You’ve got to take shots to win!” “Why can’t you be more like Anaheim or Buffalo?” they say. Well, if all the other teams jumped off a bridge, would you? Don’t listen to them, ahbabi, just be yourselves.

  1. Tonight’s TSN commentators have a laundry list of problems with the Canadiens. They take too many penalties. They don’t take enough shots. They spend too much time in their own zone. They rely too heavily on goaltending. Well, look at what happens: in the first and the third they take more penalties and fewer shots than the Caps, and they score. 2nd period, they do everything ‘right’- more shots, no real penalties, lots of time on offense, and get nothing for it. That’s what happens when you give in to peer pressure: you start to suck. Can’t play someone else’s game, only your own.
  2. On the theme of points from unexpected places, first goals of the season for both Dandenault and Downey. On the Habs website you can see video of Dandenault saying that what he really wants for Christmas is a goal. Merry Christmas, Mathieu, hope it fits. I don’t suppose for New Years you could use your direct line to the Powers That Be and ask for Buffalo to tank? Or would that be contrary to the spirit of the season? I’m not a big fan of Downey, because I’m not a big fan of enforcer-types, but hey, every bit helps, and it was worth it solely to see the RDS guys break into fits of giggles- Downey???? Now all we need are goals for Niinimaa and Murray- if they ever get to play again- and we’ll have a complete set.
  3. Souray will likely be leaving sooner or later, since almost certainly Montreal won’t be able to afford to keep his new, extremely shiny incarnation. That will be very sad, but eventually I’ll come to accept it, and maybe even to wish him well on whatever new team can afford his allegiance. But if Markov goes, I will mourn. I will weep and tear my hair and threaten to defect to Minnesota. The Habs have a lot of talented defensemen, and I certainly appreciate the hell out of Komisarek and Bouillon, but really, Markov is my hockey-game security blanket- whenever he’s out there I just feel like everything is going to be okay in the end. Also, is it wrong that now I’m vaguely disappointed when Koivu gets only one goal in a game? Lately I kind of want him to bolt his skates to that spot just a bit forward and to the left of the opposing crease and just stand there jostling people and tipping in slapshots all game long. Sure, it’d be a pity not to see him skate, but that one point on the ice works inexplicably well for him. Cristobal Huet: like coming home from work a little late after a long day at work and finding a pool of blood on the tiles of the foyer, but you live alone…
  4. Ovechkin? Ummm… which one was he again? Was he playing with Semin? Ohhhhh….. the other #8, okay, yeah, I remember him. Fast kid, needs to shoot more. But that Laich dude, he’s something to watch out for, yeah?
  5. Shortly after Dandenault’s goal (yes, the first of the four), the announcers say that it’s odd that the Habs should score in a period when they haven’t been getting ‘good chances’. You know what, TSN men? Other teams need good chances, neat geometric scoring opportunities of crystalline structure, and congratulations to them when they get them. The Canadiens, this particular year, don’t do that thing. They make their goals out of bits of tinfoil and dried macaroni and one of those purple glue sticks. Sure, sometimes one does look a bit enviously at all those gilt-edged goals all studded with sapphires like Anaheim gives it’s fans, but really, we in Montreal are happier just to have 49 construction-paper points to tape to our collective refrigerator.

I’ve only been away from the Canadiens for a week, and a week not entirely without hockey at that, but I missed them so much and was so happy to watch this game that this could have been a loss of Sens-like proportions and I still would have written a glowing, gushing review just because I’m so glad to see some speed, a decent PK, and checking with half a brain. I am delirious with contentment that the core principles of ahbabi haven’t changed in my absence.

[Apologies to Scarlett Ice for the dig at the Sens, I like them, I really do. I appreciate that they really commit to winning or losing, whichever they do. Speaking of which, where are they? I mean, Ottawa is like half a blink away and we never visit them, and they never come to visit us. It’s just rude.]


Sherry said...

It's okay E, what you said was completely legitimate. I suppose it's good that they're committed to something...although I would have preferred it be to the winning part.

We've been meaning to call, honest we have. It's just that we've been feeling a little inferior since you're kicking our butt in the standings. Next time you guys come visit, we'll be sure to make that casserole you like to make up for it.

Reality Check said...

I cannot handle watching Habs games on TSN. They simple are not atuned to the team. They base their opnions on what things seem to be on the surface. I'll stick with RDS.

On the Souray front - I'd prefer to lose up to 4 or 5 players in order to somehow keep him. He does want to stay, but he knows the realities of the tight economics.

The depth the Habs would need to surrender to do it (Bonk, Johnson, Samsonov, Aebischer, Begin, Niinimaa, Dandeneault, Murray, - pick any 4 totalling 5 million) is well worth it. Souray is a unique enough commodity to afford it.

CapsChick said...

I love that you mentioned Brooks Laich (unless you were being sarcastic) - I thought he was everywhere last night and one of the few Caps who actually showed up for the entire game. I never know if people outside of DC notice him, but I love him.

Hopefully next week's rematch will be a bit better for both teams. I think as a long-suffering Caps fan and a briefly-suffering Habs fan I deserve that much.

And if you guys don't want Souray, we'll take him here in DC, no problem!

Reality Check said...

Souray..not a chance!

CapsChick said...

Oh, come on! You can have Jeff Schultz - young, big, slow as molasses...sound good? :)

E said...

RC- you really think that souray is worth sacrificing bonk and johnson, i.e. the 3rd line? it's an interesting question actually, a tradeoff between a set of defensively talented forwards and an offensively talented defenseman. for a winningish team the habs have a lot more players on the minus side of +/- than the plus side, and i'm not sure it's a good idea to give up a line which has great chemistry and can contain the oppositions' top players with ease for a high-scoring defenseman who can be (sorry to say it) a bit of a defensive disaster on his off-nights. don't get me wrong, i would love it if souray would stay, and i harbor the not-so-secret hope that maybe he likes the team enough to stay for less money than he might get somewhere else, but such is not the way the world usually works.

CC- i was totally sincere about laich- i do think he was easily one of the best caps performances last night, and in general is one of their players who catches my notice in pretty much every caps game i see. unfortunately, that means maybe 4 or 5 games this year to date, so i don't really know what i'm talking about. you'll have to fill me in some day.

Reality Check said...

The third line is completely replacable by youngsters who will push them out by next year irregardless of their performance. Perezhogin, who is young, cheaper, and has great upside, will remain.

The third and fourth lines composition will be much changed by next training camp - salary practically dictates that! Whoever replaces them and their roles will be smartly coached by Carbo and company. It worries me none.

As for Souray, sure he does get augered into the ice by the odd dazzling speedster, but that's also true of many other less fleetfooted D-men. Souray's defensive game is slightly above average at best.

Souray's best assets are, of course, his booming accurate low shot, his passing, and his puckhandling.

The reason the Habs PP is so killer is mainly due to Souray. Teams are defenseless against it. They are damned is they key on him and damned if they don't. They can neutralize his chances to shoot by playing closer to him, it opens up room for Kovalev's cross ice feeds or Higgins play around the net. Without him the Habs aren't the same threat.

Who has another defenseman with those attributes and how would the Habs replace him? He's a rare breed!

Now I've just divulged the contest of my soon-to-be-up Souray post!!!

I'll have to use different words alltogether now! Rats!