Wednesday, February 14, 2007

2-14-07: Devils 5, Canadiens 2

The Habs have a very special relationship with the Devils, and by ‘special’, I mean ‘abusive’. The Devils just squish them into the ice, over and over again. I don’t know that there’s another relationship so one-sided between two teams anywhere else in the NHL- maybe Pittsburgh-Philadelphia this season comes close, but the Flyers at least almost beat the Penguins occasionally. The first period of this game is, as far as I know, the first time in a very long while that the Habs have had even the vaguest hope of beating the Devils, and that hope didn’t last long. The upside, if there is one, is that the New Jersey Curse means that the Canadiens wouldn’t have been expected to win this one under any circumstances, so I can compartmentalize it a bit from the rest of the slump.

1. Huet is injured. He pulled a hamstring trying to stop Jersey’s 3rd goal and had to be helped off the ice. I know, he wasn’t doing as well as he had been at the beginning of the season, but he was looking great yesterday, and I hadn’t yet given up hope that he’d be stealing games for the Habs yet again before the season was out. This, however, does not look good, and while I of course want him to take as much time as he needs to recover completely, I’m really, really going to miss that goofy mid-game grin, and the potential for 40+ saves per match that goes with it. If you’re a Habs fan, this is the moment when you become extremely grateful that the Canadiens seem to have an unhealthy fixation with locking up as much goalie talent as possible. If they have to call someone up, there’s a range of good options to choose from.

2. The gut-punch about this game is that the Habs lost it on stupid, stupid penalties. Had they not insisted on putting themselves down 3-5 on two separate, consecutive occasions in the 2nd, they could have won. Brodeur was actually looking quite beatable tonight, but the Habs committed seppuku and gave up the game. Which is a crying shame- no, actually, more like a screaming, shrieking, hair-tearing shame- because otherwise it was a nice effort on their part.

3. On a related note, Koivu is not right these days. He looks tired all the time, and he’s getting increasingly sloppy. I don’t think he’s playing without heart, as some have alleged- he can still be counted on for more passion and more ‘grit’ per game than most of the forwards. He’s not playing less intensely than everyone else, but he’s playing less intensely than we’ve come to expect of him. With Higgins and Samsonov he’s showing some encouraging signs, but he’s somehow drifted a long way from the Saku we’re used to, and I fear it will take him a long time to find his way back. I hate to burden him more, since he’s already expected to be the guy who single-handedly redeems the Canadiens from all their failings, but I don’t think I’ll regain any real confidence in the team as a whole until he comes around. Which he will. This is E’s moment of pure, unquestioning faith.

4. Tonight’s bright spots: The entire first line finished +1, a precious rarity for Habs forwards, and that can be almost entirely credited to Samsonov. Not only did he score, on a slap shot (!), but he brings some much-needed defensive responsibility to the top line. Higgins also looked pretty good, Souray did his thing as he always does, and Aebischer played a fantastic 3rd period. And they did manage to give me the one thing I asked from this game: They didn't get shut out. So thank God for small miracles.

They say Carbonneau looked completely broken down after this game, and that must be pretty bad, because to my eyes he’s been looking completely broken down after most games for a long time. There’s nothing left for him to do. We’ve passed the point of constructive criticism, there is nothing to say that hasn’t already been said, and with the current pieces available, no arrangement of players that hasn’t already been tried. The fans can scream all they want, there is no outside fix for this one. The rest of us, even Carbo, can only watch, because now, it’s all about the guys on the ice. They have to, somehow, through all this shit, find a way to play a game they can love again.


[Here follows a non-hockey-related digression. Speaking of love, although I’m not generally a big fan of Valentine’s Day, I do enjoy a good excuse to push poetry on an unsuspecting audience. So here are a couple of short love poems.]

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh…. And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

-(e.e. cummings)

You destroyed
My kingdom of small things
I no longer possess anything alone
I do not arrange flowers alone
I do not read books alone
You come between my eyes and my paper
Between my mouth and my voice
Between my head and my pillow
Between my fingers and my cigarette

Of course
I do not complain of your living inside me
Interfering with the movement of my hands
The movement of my eyes, the movement of my thoughts
Trees do not complain of holding too many birds
And glasses do not complain of holding too much wine

-(Nizar Kabbani)

[And by the way, if you’re by any chance looking for a belated Valentine’s gift for someone, I highly recommend Kabbani- the edition of his work most commonly available in North America is called ‘Arabian Love Poems’, and while it certainly loses something in the translation, it’s still (I think) some of the most compelling poetry yet written about the experience of being in love.]


Lyle Richardson said...

Sheldon Souray made a very interesting comment following last night's game, saying there is no saviour coming to help the team and it was up to the current roster to work harder to get out of its lengthy slump.

Perhaps Big Shel knows something we don't? Lots of trade rumours buzzing about the Habs, and Gainey was very curt with the press yesterday in New Jersey prior to the game.

For me, the frustration for the last ten years has been waiting for this team to rebuild into a contender again. I'd allowed myself to hope since 2003-04 that things had finally turned the corner, and throughout the first three months of this season it seemed they were finally on their way.

Alas, my heightened expectations have only heightened my anxiety over this team, as once again it looks like another desperate battle down the stretch to make the playoffs.

But even if they make it, what then? Another first round exit, or perhaps stealing the first round and then getting bounced in the second? Sorry, I've seen this picture far too many times over the past 11 years.

So I'm lowering my expectations, as really, there's nothing any of we faithful Habs followers can do to change things.

There's some promising talent on this team, and in the system, so that provides some hope for the future.

Ultimately, though, this team lacks a superstar to build around, but the only way the Habs will get a superstar is to draft one (a crapshoot at best) or trade for one (odds only marginally better). They can't attract one via free agency because of taxes, language, the club's recent mediocre history and the intense fan pressure.

Yep, it's a long process, and for all the knuckleknobs crying out to Gainey to trade the overpriced stiffs for Lecavalier or Richards or Marleau, the bottom line is those deals aren't out there. This isn't the 1970s, Gainey's not Sam Pollock and he's not dealing with expansion team rubes.

In the meantime, here's hoping they can at least rise to my lowered expectations: squeak into the playoffs and maybe pull off a first round upset before hitting the golf links again after the second round.

Julian said...

I think it's fairly safe to say that E has made the first love poem post in the hockey blogosphere.

Unless you count the the haiku's posted over at Covered in Oil a bit back.

I think the one about Hemsky counts as a love poem:
Across the blueline,
Ales goes between his legs;
Between mine: boner.

Earl Sleek said...

I think it's fairly safe to say that E has made the first love poem post in the hockey blogosphere

Aw, I wrote two poems that weren't so much about love (though it might be hidden in there), but really more about spelling out players' names.

But yeah, she made the first good poem.

Julian said...

yeah, ok, those definitely have some man-love vibes there Sleek. Sorry E, Sleek takes the distinction, barring further challenges.

Robert L said...

Do I sense a hockey love poem tag coming on?

E said...

okay, firstly, as much as i'd like to take credit for them, those aren't my poems. the translation of the 2nd one is mine, but that's different. so sleek definitely takes the prize for best original composition.

however, i think i have to take this as a challenge: to write the best hockey-themed love poem yet composed. we can't let the ducks be better than us in every way...

and to lyle- yeah, i don't see the superstar thing happening in the forseeable future. you'd have to find someone with a huge ego such that he had unshatterable confidence and the desire to be in the spotlight constantly. unfortunately, most hockey stars seem to enjoy the sort of 'double-life' option that comes from playing somewhere that the sport is ignored, so they can be famous in the context of the game but virtually anonymous in normal life. our salvation will have to be the fact that non-superstars can sometimes have superstar-caliber seasons when the fates allow. i'm hoping they keep the most talented veterans and then start really focusing on developing the darari, rather than trying to acquire any further big-money names. of course, it might be different if i thought anyone of substantial long-term value might be available to us, but from what i can tell, that ain't the case. of course, that's your business, not mine.

Earl Sleek said...

however, i think i have to take this as a challenge: to write the best hockey-themed love poem yet composed.

I'm excited, and already prepared to concede defeat.

we can't let the ducks be better than us in every way...

Well, you still got us on power play potency.


MetroGnome said...

You might the first person to associate Samsonov with defensive responsibility without the qualifier "completely lacks".

E said...

metrognome- everything is relative. you, evidently, have been watching teams with defensively adequate forwards. however, on my montreal canadiens, we have koivu (-16), higgins (-12), ryder (-20), kovalev (-7), and hell, let's throw in souray (-13) just for the fun of it. and that's just the 'good' players. so yes, in this particular situation, samsonov with his nice round '0' qualifies as defensively responsible. i would laugh, if i could stop crying.

sleek- you might be waiting a while on that poem. preliminary efforts have revealed that there are only two ways to write a hockey/love poem: 1) silly, which i can't pull off competently; and 2) sincere, which can only go in directions which would be deeply disturbing to the reader. i haven't given up yet, but things do not seem promising...

Fabrizio Finkini said...

Lyle's take on the state of the Habs is the most honest and true analysis I've seen. Montréal is a tough place to attract star players. Mediocrity, language, taxes, expectations all add up to needing the right sort of player.

I think I've come to this same realization over the past week or so. The great start was both a blessing and a curse. It was incredibly fun to watch the team play so well, but it was likely quite a bit above their talent level. Perhaps I can spend the rest of the season enjoying that we have NHL hockey this year, and that my favorite team is developing some exciting young players.

I have high expectations for the franchise in the long run, but my expectations for this season have lowered significantly, and I think that's ok.