Thursday, January 11, 2007

1-11-07: Canadiens 4, Flyers 2

Hypothesis: The more bizarre a game seems, the more likely it is that the Canadiens will win. If the pace is irregular, if the calls are incomprehensible even with the help of slow-motion replay and two commentators, if there are silly fights/semi-fights over inscrutable plays, if the scoring is flukey or peculiarly syncopated, if there are wacky maybe-injuries, the game eventually bends to the Habs’ advantage. It doesn’t matter whether the weirdness favors the Habs on the surface level. Every single inexplicable call may go against them, they may take 3 pucks to various faces, but as a rule, the more fucked-up the circumstances, the better for Montreal. This is why New Jersey, with their tidy, steam-powered Prussian hockey, just kills the Canadiens- they need a game that runs on Infinite Improbability Drive. Thank God the Flyers are desperate and poorly organized.

  1. Lots of bad feelings in this game, although Downey is always too late to the action to start any real shit. Most penalty-heavy games in the New NHL have a lot of hooking and tripping calls. This game had 21 penalties, but for things like cross-checking, high-sticking, boarding, and the night’s winner, roughing. As usual, some of these were highly creative interpretations of the rule book, but there seemed to be a nasty vibe in the air. Why does this happen? Why are some games, in the absence of any rivalry or obvious reason for a grudge, just vaguely bilious? They’re not even necessarily the most aggressive games in terms of play- this one was actually pretty slow for stretches. So why do both teams seem to be so, not exactly angry, but irritated with each other? Did Knuble say something mean about Rivet’s mom? Did somebody get too many onions on their cheesesteak? Do the Habs just really, really hate Diana Ross?
  2. I know Huet is semi-divine, but I can’t help liking Aebischer almost as much. His version of goalie-ness inevitably looks twitchy, though, given his counterpart’s stoicism, and because the current Montreal master-hockey-narrative describes him as slumping and possibly having confidence issues, those first two goals did have me cringing a bit. I know, I know, I shouldn’t let the MSM’s interpretations influence me. What can I say, I was weak. But that 2nd period thing- I don’t know if you’d really call it a save… wow. One of those so-crazy-it-just-might-work kinds of plays, and Lord knows if it hadn’t worked we’d all be saying that he’s crazy, but it did work, and, well, wow. Happiness is a fast goalie.
  3. Comments: Johnson (motto: “I can’t help it, I have an inner-ear problem”) just plays well with others. He’s a one-man chemistry set, setting just as nicely with Higgins and Plekanec as he previously did with Perezhogin and Bonk, and even 2/3 different than usual, the 3rd line still finishes the night +6 with 2 (even-strength!) goals. Latendresse, although he may 'deserve' to be on the 1st line, doesn’t seem to work as well with Koivu and Ryder as he does with Streit and Lapierre. Higgins breaks his scoring drought, Ryder gets very tasteful goal and shows everyone that the last game wasn’t a fluke, and Plekanec continues to rack up points at approximately 78 times his former rate. Kovalev, however, continues to refuse to score while centered by anyone but Koivu, who can’t center everybody all the time, dammit. Why do they keep bringing these poor darari up from Hamilton and sticking them between Samsonov and Kovalev? Is it some sort of test to see how well they can handle incredibly frustrating circumstances? Is it an initiation ritual?
  4. Mike Boone, of Habs Inside/Out fame, comments that someone who wouldn’t trade Koivu for Sidney Crosby is “*&^%ing NUTS”. While I know this is not personally directed at me, since I’ve been known to say such things in the past, I feel impelled to remind my very small audience that The Venerable Sidney may actually be the Best Player in the NHL, but it is very possible to have him on your team and still suck regularly. Hell, it’s possible to have him and Evegni Malkin on your team and still suck regularly. This is why we call it a ‘team sport’. If the competition was just to see who’s the most individually talented, we could all give TVS the Stanley Cup today and go home (okay, we probably wouldn’t do that, we’d probably make him fight Ovechkin for it). Since we’re not doing that, I’m going to continue presuming that there is more that goes into a good team than Sidney Crosby. Than again, I am definitely *&^%ing nuts and have a poor understanding of hockey.

Saturday, as part of Canadian Hockey-rama, Montreal plays Ottawa. Tonight the Sens built up a 5-0 lead over two periods, and then let the Rangers come back with 4 goals in less than 10 minutes. I know better than to predict anything, but that kind of silliness bodes well for ahbabi. Should be entertaining and possibly gut-wrenching for all concerned


Jordi said...

These new line combinations just plain give me headaches. I just wish I could see how they looked in real life.

While Sid the Kid would be a total winner if her came in - I'm still unsure if trading Saku Koivu for him would be nice. It's not about the returns - it's about the ideology that Saku should end his career in Montreal in a big bath of glory.

E said...

you're right about the lines- it is sometimes pretty hard to tell what's working and what isn't based on what the camera shows. the analysts help, but they're rather apt to fall in and out of love with various combos based on how they did in the last game. anyhow, i'm going to a game next week, and i'll try to report my real-life impressions of whatever the hell lines they're playing with then.

and yeah, i totally need to relax about The Venerable Sidney. i guess i've just accepted that he's the BP-NHL, but i somehow don't think that title is particularly meaningful, it doesn't fill me with awe and lust the way it seems to for a lot of other fans. i hate to harp on the 'intangibles' thing, but players are more than just their accrued points, and i tend to believe that the habs would more or less turn into a large bowl of cherry-flavored jello without koivu, no matter who else took the slot. but i'm also just very, very partisan where some of 'my guys' are concerned.

Doogie said...

How did I not find this place before?

Anyway, that opening paragraph absolutely killed me. The Hitchhiker's reference was the cherry on top of a brilliant hypothesis. I'll be watching for wacky shit tomorrow afternoon with eager anticipation now.

Julian said...

Crosby would not only do everything Koivu does (but... better), he also will cost about 2M less next season than Koivu would.

It's quite true that having the BP-NHL doesn't make for a good team, but it sure doesn't hurt. In fact, it's pretty much guarenteed to help.

I know where you're coming from with the sentimental feelings towards Koivu, Oilers fans have the same feelings about Ryan Smyth. But if the point of playing the game is to win, you need the best players. Crosby is a much better player than Koivu is, and intangibles be damned.

E said...

julian! you still owe me a list of hockey books!

anyway, you're probably right that the game is played to win and that any gm doing his proper job is going to be looking to acquire the BP-NHL (or candidates for that title) if the opportunity arises, regardless of the cost in terms of other talent. remains to be seen how far TVS can take a team in the absence of other talent, but we'll assume that as he gets older the answer is pretty damn far. certainly your position seems to be the majority one among hockey fans, but in some ways that's one of the things that still marks me as a newcomer to the hockey world: i am inordinately attached to the actual team more than the concept of the team, and i honestly don't know how i'll feel once the habs become a totally different group of guys. if the habs weren't who they are, if they were (for example) the penguins, only in bleu/blanc/rouge uniforms and playing at the bell center, would i still adore them the way that i generally do? i know that the 'true fan' answer is of course, you love your team no matter who is on it and you especially love anyone who plays well for your team. but i'm just not there yet, right now i like my guys because of who they are specifically, not just the logo they wear. give me a couple years, i'll probably come around. not as long as the habs are doing well as-is, though, and hell, possibly not until koivu retires.

Julian said...

I know I owe you a list, I know. Mea culpa.

I started a hockey blog a long time ago, and then stopped writing in it for a while when I forgot the signin name and password. I found it again though, so maybe I'll give you a top-five hockey books list on there.

From what i understand, tihs is your first season as a crazed sports fan, let alone hockey fan. One of the things you'll soon discover is that player movement is the only contstant in hockey. It's easy to be attached to the current incarnation of a team when they're winning most of the time, but when they start losing, it's easy to look at everyone and see who might be shipped off for better returns.

Here's a bit of a hint. Start following your teams prospects, by the time they come to training camp, they'll seem like "yours" and they be a part of your team already. Personally, I think it's one of the more interesting things about being a hockey fan, you follow players from when they're 16, 17 years old, to when they get drafted, to when they play in the minors, then make the team. Ken Dryden called it "our national drama", and I think it's an interesting way of putting it.

Anyway, at some point, players will move, and you'll learn to love their replacements as well. And when no one is left from this years habs team, you'll know you're a fan of the laundry, as the saying goes.

It's easier for us oilers fans, they just keep hiring old oilers back into management, regardless of merit. coughcraigsimpsoncough.

Jordi said...

Well in our hlog, there was the question on what female hockey fans had compared to male ones. Many tended to say that females developed attachments to players and males had only the agenda of strengthening the team as a whole in mind.

And we are losing but the funny thing is that no one's considered shipping off Koivu. All shaky teams have already blamed their captains for underperforming. But if ours plays bad - he shouldn't be blamed. Maybe it's because he's had criticism since the start. But I reckon his unquestioned captaincy can com from points that the fans can't tell from the scoresheet or statistics.

I like my team, I like the players no matter how horrendous they can be sometimes. The only player I wasn't sad to see go was Ribeiro. But then again I'm just weird.

E said...

i also think koivu has achieved his 'unquestioned' status by sheer staying power. if you look on the habs message boards, for a lot of younger fans, he's been there virtually as long as they have any meaningful memory of hockey, they can't really imagine the team without him. the more time passes, the more habs fans are like this- people who would never question his right to be on the team or to lead it simply because it seems so natural that he be there, like he's intrinsic to the franchise. that said, i also think he isn't being blamed for the problems because he's objectively having a really good year, there isn't anyone else on the team to whom he compares unfavorably.

i don't know if the affection for specific players is a gender thing or an age thing. on the whole, the ladies of hlog tend to skew a bit younger than the overall population of hockey blogistan, and i think it might simply be that after you've had to see guys come and go over many years, you learn to detach yourself from them as a sort of defense mechanism, so your fan-ness doesn't become schizophrenic and divided against itself.

Julian said...

I think males can become attached to players, or some can anyway. Check out any thread on "what to give/do with Smyth" on HF (he's a UFA this year) and you'll see a number of guys saying he's the heart of the franchise and Lowe should open up the vault and let him dive in etc etc.

But on the whole, yes, guys tend to be more dispassionate about individual players. Hell, some guys in the oilogosphere have started using only player numbers rather than names. Sure it's easier to write "26-19-28" than "Winchester - Reasoner - Thoreson" but it also seems to make the players simply bodies that fill into certain slots, and if better bodies are available, well, they're just numbers being moved