Saturday, February 03, 2007

2-3-07: Islanders 4, Canadiens 2

This is a game that cries out to be discussed with hockey clichés. Things like ‘you have to play a full 60 minutes’ or ‘every game counts’ or ‘never rely on a 1 goal lead’ or ‘don’t underestimate your opponent’. But it’s really pointless to repeat these over and over again- the Canadiens do not live in a tiny black box isolated from the surrounding world. They know their precarious position in the standings, they know that lots of teams that were weak earlier in the season are fighting their way back into playoff contention, and they know that they are not so good that they can afford to count on a win against anyone. But for whatever reason, in spite of the fact that they must know all these things and more, they still play vile games like this at fairly regular intervals. The Habs underestimated the Isles, left the game entirely after the 2nd period, and ultimately gave up 2 points that they really, really needed.

1. I hereby rechristen the lines. The 3rd line is now the 1st line, the 4th line is the 2nd line. As in the last game, Bonk, Streit, Johnson, and Samsonov did the scoring and brought most of the offense. Perezhogin was back after being scratched for two consecutive games, and while he didn’t exactly melt the ice with glory, he played a decent game- took a stupid penalty but also got an assist. I’m not quite sure why Carbonneau thinks this kid is a problem, and even if he is, he’s way, way down on the list. Were I to scratch somebody in that ‘send a message’ sort of way, I wouldn’t have picked the best +/- on the team.

2. Meanwhile, on the hilariously named ‘top lines’, Kovalev continued to mystify Latendresse and almost visibly annoy Plekanec, while Koivu did his very best to work with Higgins (who spends half of every game these days looking as though he’s trying to do differential equations in his head) and Ryder (who is well-intentioned but just doesn’t have the puck-handling skills for the kind of things he attempts to do). Everyone is more or less accustomed to getting nothing out of the ‘2nd’ line, so that’s not really a surprise, but it is strange how the same 1st line that did so beautifully at the beginning of the season is turning into such a disaster now. My guess is that when Higgins figures out whatever the hell he’s so clearly trying to figure out, things will improve dramatically, but not before. Don’t hold your breath…

3. Poor Huet. He and Ryan Miller should go out for a beer and commiserate on the cruel vicissitudes of goaltending.

4. In other news, Colby Armstrong won’t play tomorrow due to a ‘sprained knee’, or, as I like to call it, craven cowardice. It’s too bad, really, because it would have been a good opportunity to see if the Bell Center crowd is truly capable of killing someone by sheer force of hatred.

I’m bracing myself, in the coming days, to watch the Habs fall back a bit in the standings, and unfortunately there’s not too much space to fall back into without falling out of a playoff spot altogether. Fortunately, they’ve got 30 games to redeem themselves, and if they want to, they will. The Canadiens are one of those teams that get exactly what they earn, no more and no less. When they work hard, they usually win and virtually always pick up at least a point. When they slack off, they rack up bitter, demoralizing losses. If I know one thing, it’s that in the end their place in the standings will reflect, precisely, the overall effort they put into the season, not their overall quality as a team.

I hope they know that too.


Reality Check said...

They were looking ahead to Sunday.

E said...

yeah, maybe, but they were fools to do so.

Kaz said...

Carbo seems to have a lot of patience with his forwards (witness Samsonov). But not with his defense -- which I don't think were ever as big a problem. Markov with Rivet, no, now with Dandenault. Komisarek skates with Souray, then Bouillon. Maybe Niinimaa?

All of this has taken its toll. Huet is a positional goalie. His saves are of the unspectacular variety purely because he knows where he ought to be. It's up to his defense to clear rebounds, play the man, not allow the odd man rush and leave Huet out of position.

The Habs defense did this well enough last year (hence Huet's success). And they did it well enough this year (hence Huet's continued success). Some players like Rivet and Komisarek have struggled of late, but its hard to separate their struggles from Carbo's tinkering.

Such tinkering should be reserved for the forward pairings, as you point out. I hate to pick on Guy because he's obviously a good coach. But he's showing too much patience with Ryder, Higgins, Latendresse and even Kovalev. He doesn't need to bench them necessarily -- just mix them up a little. Look at how it's paid off with Samsonov.

Reality Check said...

How has it paid off with Samsonov? He seems to be getting more puck time with Bonk and Johnson, but it hasn't exactly resulted in score board dividends. It's has benefitted Plekenec, as he now has a winger who finishes checks and creates room.