Wednesday, December 06, 2006

12-6-06: Devils 2, Canadiens 1

All good things must come to an end, but it’s so hard when they do. Tonight marks the first time in the season that the Habs have lost two consecutive games. Both were particle-thin losses, nearly wins, so close, and in some ways that makes it more painful. I’m not nostalgic for the 5-1 losses of mid-November, but it must be heartbreaking to come so close and fail at the last moment. Still, this one went to overtime, so they pick up a point, which is some small comfort.

1. In some ways, this represents a return to an all-too-familiar variety of Canadiens game: outshot by a ludicrous margin, fantastic penalty killing, occasionally brilliant defense, shockingly flat offense, and nearly saved by an amazing goaltender. Before this game, Rivet commented that they’d probably play dull, boring hockey , and unfortunately, with a few exceptions, they more or less did.

2. Aebischer, however, played a twitchy-but-sparkling game, worthy of all the best compliments that Huet usually gets, and refused to be shaken by a few nasty pileups quite literally on top of him. Again, the bulk of this game was played in the Habs’ zone, and Aebi made one gorgeous, impossible save after another. He earned a win, and it’s terribly sad that he didn’t get it.

3. Bonk also played a beautiful game, getting the Canadiens' only goal, and along with the rest of his line, doing the best job of generating some offensive energy. Bouillon, Komisarek, and Niinimaa kept the defense alive, while Dandenault looked peculiarly slow throughout. Samsonov and Koivu brought their energy, but the rest of the 1st and 2nd lines were consistently flat. Souray, unfortunately, proved that he is perhaps the most bipolar element of a bipolar team- he’s either one of the greatest or one of the most disastrous moments of any game. In this case, he was the latter, being among the proximate causes of both the Devils’ goals.

4. Jersey played a bit looser than they usually do, but just as soul-crushing. Maybe they are actually Satanic, an ingenious infernal plot to drive hockey fans to suicide by turning the world’s sexiest sport into frigid data-filing. I’ve never seen so much intentionally slow play. This team proves that I don’t know anything about hockey, because I always think that anyone with even a bit of creativity and some bite ought to be able to whoop these guys, but that doesn’t happen very often.

In the post-game press conference, Carbonneau looks like he’s going to cry. I sympathize. There is no reason the Habs should have the scoring problems they do, there is no logic to it, no reason that so many games should end in less than 20 shots and less than 2 goals. They do not lack for players who have, in the past, demonstrated an ability to score early and often. The skill and the talent are there, but the psyche of the first two lines is twisted around itself like an Escher-pretzel. Koivu’s possibly-telepathic power to work well with anyone or anything is a stabilizing influence, but there’s an imbalance in the force here that isn’t resolving itself. I know Carbonneau is, for whatever reason, unwilling to rearrange the first two lines in any substantive way, but something has to change, or the Habs are going to slowly, internally bleed out by January.

I miss Higgins.

Islanders tomorrow. Get angry, ahbabi, fight for this one…


Robert L said...

"Nearly saved by an amazing goaltender" ??? You don't see the goaltending that I do! Aebischer inspires no confidence whatsoever!

He's on his knees in the crease on shoot-ins for christsakes! He's never square to a shooter and flops on his belly or back everytime the puck moves side to side.

He's the ultimate poster goalie for nervous netminders.

Watch the game over again and wetness how he winces each time the play gets near. If I were a defenseman playing near him, I'd be doing doubletakes looking towrads the crease all game.

His lack of confidence is simply scary!

He blew both goals tonight. The Habs D for once kept shots doen to twenty.

On Elias' game winner, Aebischer was out of position as usual.

waiver this guy ASAP and call uo Jaroslav Halak.

E said...

i defer to your vastly superior experience on the question of what constitutes good form in goaltending. seriously, having never played, i cannot claim to judge anything about how aebischer measures up to the ideals of the position. what i will say is that, whatever the possible flaws in his style, he performed well last night, .935 for the game is more than respectable, and moreover, that even if you're right that aebi is a problem (i don't know that you are, but again, i'm not qualified to argue) he's far from the most significant one facing the team right now.

regarless of his confidence or lack thereof, i simply don't think that aebischer can be blamed for the loss.