Saturday, February 17, 2007

2-17-07: Hurricanes 5, Canadiens 3

Canes: We’ve been a bit shakey these days, maybe it’s time to try a new style of game?

Habs: Hey, you know what used to work really well for us? Perfectly disciplined special teams, a divinely-inspired goalie, and lots of empty-netters. Oh, and it helps if you can get outshot by at least 10, more if you can manage it.

Canes: Really? What about 5-on-5? What about offensive production?

Habs: Eh, you can do without them, because, see, if you’re doing badly, you just take a silly penalty and score short-handed with your really good PK, and all the empty-netters boost your overall stats so that it looks like you’re scoring more than you actually are. Trust us, it’s great.

[After the game]

Canes: Wow! You were right, that did work!

Habs: See? It’s brilliant, because nobody ever sees it coming!

Canes: Yeah really, not even you! Speaking of which, why’d you give it up anyway?

Habs: [Burst into sobs and run away].

***

Yes, it’s true, the Hurricanes stole the Canadiens’ game, and then proceeded to beat the poor Habs over the head with it. I suppose you can’t blame them, I mean, it’s not like Montreal was using it anyway.

1. Pop quiz: You have two lines: Begin-Koivu-Samsonov & Ryder-Plekanec-Higgins. Which is really the 1st and which is the 2nd? First right answer wins my eternal respect and undying admiration.

2. The latest Hamilton import, Milroy, seems like an interesting option. He came out pretty aggressively and got some nice shots off, but all the new kids seem to come out aggressively when they’re first called up. But hey, he didn’t do anything embarrassing, which already puts him a few steps ahead of the healthy-scratch crew, so let’s keep him around. Why not?

3. Notes: Thankfully, Johnson is back, but Rivet is still out sick in an increasingly suspicious way. Ward gets called for high-sticking Lapierre, which strikes me as odd, only one week after the Emery incident. Haven’t seen the replay yet, but Lapierre has clearly found the key to infuriating the goaltending community. Maybe it’s his game, maybe it’s his haircut, maybe he just smells funny. No idea. Begin’s spirit is infectious, he makes those around him happier to be playing, if not necessarily better at it. Koivu was behaving more like his December-self, getting into the play, hovering close to the net, looking for rebounds and tip-ins. It didn’t work for him tonight, but I hope he keeps it up, because he got more shots-on-goal out of it than he has for a while, and it’s exactly what the Canadiens need right now. Bonk’s goal, also, was entirely gorgeous, one of the few times in recent memory when a beautiful set-up has come to an equally beautiful end for the Habs.

4. You know what my favorite thing is about the Hurricanes coming to town? The Justin Williams personal soundtrack. Habs fans boo a lot of things, especially lately, but they put a special effort into booing Williams, and it’s just hilarious for the home viewers- it’s almost as if he’s the one making the noise, every time he touches the puck.

5. A good night for Ward, and a very bad night for Canadiens goalies. Aebi let in some really terrible goals, and it’s a safe bet that we’ll be seeing the debut of Halak tomorrow in Ohio. But in worse news, Huet evidently tore his hamstring and is having surgery tomorrow, meaning that we won’t be seeing him again this season. Which is, for me, more or less the ultimate black icing of despair on an already very depressing cake. Get well soon, Huey. You’re already missed.

6. And finally, elsewhere in the NHL, here’s hoping Shanahan’s alright. He’s one of those guys that I sort of like on principle for proving that it’s possible have a very long, very good career in this game. Insha’allah it's one of those things that looks worse than it is.

The Canadiens are toying with us now, showing flashes of a really, really good game that they can’t sustain. They played a very fast, very offensive 1st period, and there were a few authentically inspiring plays. Early on, it looked as though they were going to build some momentum and maybe even run away with the thing, but then again, it looked a bit like that at the beginning of the Jersey game as well. Still, when you’re on a losing streak, you begin to savor the nuances of losing, in particular the distinction between a decently-played loss and a total crap-out. The last few games have been inching further and further away from disastrous. The Habs are clearly and carefully making little, essential improvements- more forechecking, more shot-blocking, more speed, more pressure on the opposition’s net. There’s a lot that they’re doing right now that they weren’t two weeks ago. But they’re against the clock in the worst sort of way. If this was mid-January instead of mid-February, I’d be optimistic, I’d say they’re showing signs of being able to make a solid comeback. As things stand, I don’t know if there are enough games for them to pull themselves together and still accumulate enough wins to hang onto a playoff spot.

Here’s my prediction: they’ll do the most dramatic possible things- stretch the losing streak until it seems like all hope is lost, and then go on a tear that will make it just barely possible for them to squeak into the 8th seed, but only if they win and select other teams lose on the very last day of regular season play, such that no one will know if they’ll make the playoffs until literally the last moment of the season. It’s all part of their master plan to kill off their own fans via the combined effects of bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, heart burn, and aneurysms.

6 comments:

Julian said...

Pop quiZ answer:

There is no such thing as First, Second, etc lines.
Most coaches will blend up their lines, double shift a particular centre for a defensive zone faceoff, give one guy lots of special teams time and less ES time, etc.

I suppose the best way to answer the question would be to look at which line played the most even strength minutes, but even then that can be off because not all members of the same line will always play the same amount of time.
Oilers example : Hemsky is considered their first line right winger. But he oftens plays less time than Fernando Pisani because Hemsky doesn't kill penalties and Pisani is more reliable defensively.

Anyway, I'm sure that's just a long winded answer to what was mostly a rhetorical question.

Matthew Macaskill said...

1st line tonight: Perezhogin - Lapierre - Milroy.

Jordi said...

The Higgins-Koivu-Ryder line was reunited. I was somewhat pleased but then I was not as much anymore. Aebischer had a chance to really create a huge turnaround and establish himself as the potential 1-B style goaltender I had hopes for. But I guess it wasn't his night. And Huet's recent announcement has really dampened the spirits.

Lyle Richardson said...

I wish I could bring myself to believe that all is not lost, that they could rally and make a hot run down the stretch and make it into the post-season.

I wish I could, but I just can't. There's far too much affecting this team this season that no one thing is gonna save them.

That call-up from the AHL? Even if he turns into the second coming of Plante, Dryden and Roy all rolled into one, he won't be able to carry the Habs into the playoffs if their best forwards are still firing blanks.

Koivu? Ryder? Higgins? Where are they? Where's the offence? I've never seen three guys dry up offensively like that simultaneously in one season. Never.

Latendresse? Ice cold. Samsonov? The less said, the better.

I give full props to Plekanec and Johnson and Bonk, consistently the best three forwards we've got, but let's face facts, without the supposed "offensive forwards" getting on the board consistently, this team is doomed.

Give it up to Big Shel, as Souray has been unquestionable the Habs best player this season. He's consistently scoring and creating chances, plus he's become the team leader, much more so than Captain K. The Habs say they wanna re-sign, and if they can, I'll be thrilled, but unfortunately I think it'll be a deal worth far more than he's worth, akin to the deal the Leafs signed with McCabe last year.

Yep, I've lost hope for this season. Even if they somehow defy the odds and squeak in, they're first round and out material, and I've seen this movie too many times over the past ten years.

So I keep looking to the future and hoping, praying, that the Habs vaunted prospects will live up to the hype down the road.

Sorry for being a downer, E, but thanks for letting this tired old Habs fan vent.

E said...

pop quiz answer: it doesn't matter what numbers you give them, because they're not going to play more than 2 shifts together anyway. so i suppose julian comes closest, and deserves bonus credit for giving a much more articulate answer than the question demanded.

matthew- they certainly made things lively, didn't they? still, like i said, i'm getting to be a little wary of the darari-lines. they've always got so much energy, but they just kind of throw it out every-which-way and don't end up putting anything in the net except, occasionally, themselves. still, it's not like they're going to make everything worse, so might as well give them all the time they can handle.

jordi- yeah, i was hopeful for the traditional first line as well, but it just doesn't seem to be working. carbo evidently believes it will, because even when he starts out with different lines, he eventually tosses those three back together. but higgins and koivu are just too hot & cold lately- they both come up with a couple of great shifts per game, and then just disappear for the rest of the time. game starts and there's always something that makes you think, wow, they're finally going to start scoring again, but then it doesn't work and they just seem to give up. it's a cliche to say this, but i really do think they just need a lucky bounce one of these nights to get back some confidence.

lyle- every rational synapse i have tells me that this team isn't going anywhere. i understand that, i understand that it would be better for me to put my confidence in the future rather than the present. but the fact is, i haven't seen this movie before, and even though i think the plot is getting pretty predictable, i'm still naive enough to hold out for the surprise twist-ending. and the sad fact is, i've actively tried to give up on this season at a couple of junctures, and i somehow can't.

oh, and with regards to souray, i love the guy, i hope he stays, and i'm very glad that he's coming through for us in so many ways. however, he's also having the best season of his career- as i understand it, he has not always been such a dazzling presence as he is now. it's easy to be a leader when you're in that position, when the stars are aligning and you don't have to worry about your own game, when you know you've accumulated enough goodwill that even your flaws (and we all know souray has several) don't seem so bad. i wonder what kind of leader he is when he's having an individual slump.

kazmojo said...

More on Sheldon: After seeing another of his great, take-your-head-off-if-you-ain't-payin'- attention rips from the point, he promptly caused another few goals going the other way. What's the old saying? "Sheldon giveth, and he taketh away"? Or maybe it's "Live by Souray, die by Souray"...