It’s very strange to be the bad guy. The surging Penguins are everybody’s favorite hockey story right now, the golden gift the media has been waiting for. You can feel their excitement, on CBC and TSN and all over the internet, at finally being able to talk all
1. The gods of hockey are trying to send a message to the Canadiens, and that message is: DON’T TAKE SO MANY FREAKING PENALTIES. The Penguins, with all their offensive magic, cannot seem to get even-strength goals off the Habs. But it doesn’t matter, because nobody in the League takes ridiculous penalties like
2. Aebischer is playing gloriously these days, so of course now people are starting to demand that Huet be traded. When Huet was flourishing, everyone wanted to unload Aebi. Hey, y’all, I’ve got an idea! Why don’t we keep both of them? Because then, you know, we’d have two really good goalies in a League where most good teams are relying very heavily on one. That might come in handy one of these days. Oh wait, it already has.
3. Total line chaos today, not even going to try to keep track of it. Plekanec got two goals and an assist, thereby sealing his status as The Light and The Salvation, although Streit is now giving him a little bit of competition in this regard. But ultimately, Souray is the hero of this game just as he was the hero of Thursday’s, although for totally different reasons. Plekanec exploits one of
4. The Venerable Sidney’s diving is an interesting phenomenon. It’s actually probably a strategy he’s been developing for years, based on the division of labor on North American hockey teams. Everyone always goes on and on about what a precious flower he is for the Pens and the NHL in general, and such a valuable ‘skill player’ isn’t supposed to run the risk of getting involved in potentially dangerous altercations, so basically he’s expected to rely on teammates and refs to come to his defense. Thus, it’s in his interest to make it as clear as possible when he’s been offended against, even in a marginal way. Generally, there are two sorts of players in the NHL who get routinely accused of diving: agitators, ala Darcy Tucker, who presumably do it to annoy people, and smallish, quickish scorers like Crosby and Briere, who are designated by hockey culture as players-to-be-protected-by-others. It’s rather like the way women in Victorian times used to go around swooning all over the furniture- a way of signaling a need for support by people who are culturally discouraged from supporting themselves. Anyway, he should either stop doing it or stop being so freakin’ obvious about it, because it’s getting embarrassing.
Of course, the Pens did pick up a point, so they’re still streaking in a way, but the Canadiens wiggle back into 4th place. You can feel something in the air changing- the stakes are getting higher and the games getting closer. So many worthy opponents in such close proximity are both a blessing and a curse for the Habs- blessing because good opposition will force them to be a better team, curse because they’ll be squished mercilessly if they don’t rise to the challenge.
The next two months are going to give me ulcers.