Sometimes you win because you can, sometimes you win because you want to, and sometimes you win because you absolutely have to. Guess which this was.
1. There are so many things in this world that money can’t buy: love, peace, the last thing in every Mastercard commercial, and evidently, scoring. Tonight the Habs were short 10 million dollars worth of forwards, and got more goals than they generally do- which bodes well for the Canadiens’ future, if not for their contractual savvy. If Carbonneau’s attitude is any indication, Samsonov is not going to play again for the Habs unless all the defensemen and every last Bulldog are injured, and even then I think Guy might prefer to dress the Molson cheerleader girls instead. As much as I wanted to support Sammy, I’ve got to admit that at this point he’s pretty much responsible for fucking up his own situation. Yes, the Montreal media can be predatory, and yes, they do try to manipulate players into saying potentially compromising things, but Samsonov should know better than to give them that kind of fodder at the worst possible moment, when the team is struggling, right on the heels of the Kovalev debacle and Ribiero’s various and sundry comments. However he meant it, and however much he regrets it, it reeks of trying to elevate himself at the expense of an already troubled team, and that’s pretty hard to forgive. I wish him well wherever he goes, but as much as it saddens me, I’d prefer it if he did indeed go somewhere else. And not to
2. I have this friend, an older Habs fan, and on trade deadline day I mentioned to him how ‘everyone’ says that the Habs need to trade for/free-agent sign a superstar center. He looked at me like I was about 3 years old, and said with the arrogance particular to Habs fans of the elder generations, “The Candadiens don’t buy superstars- they make them.” Now, this may not have been true for quite some time, but I think there’s some virtue in that attitude for any hockey team. It’s cheaper, and probably better for team chemistry, to grow your own talent. A lot of people are saying they hope the Habs shell out for Briere in the summer. Dare I say that I hope they don’t? We’re already up to our ears in small-ish, speedy-ish, skilly-ish forwards, and (as demonstrated by #1) big signings don’t seem to work well for us. But more than that, I’d really like to see them put their faith in Plekanec as the 2nd line center next season- his abilities are growing by leaps and bounds, and he works his ass off every shift. Also, does anyone know if he has some sort of weird neck birthmark or something? Because apparently he wears the turtlenecks even off the ice- either they truly are the source of his power, or he’s got something to hide.
3. The Habs outworked, outskated, outchecked, outpressured, and outshot the Islanders tonight, for virtually the entire hour, and they proved yet again that when they put their hearts and their gonads into it, they can win. But it also took every single microgram of that effort to get these two points- Aebi is still looking very shaky, and when they fuck up defensively, they are punished for it. Fortunately, they seem to realize that, because they’re blocking shots, backchecking more consistently, forcing their way into the offensive zone more quickly and staying there longer, killing penalties in perfect, mid-December style. If they can play like this for all of the next 11 games, they’ll be a bona fide playoff contender, and they’ll deserve to be. Speaking of playoffs, Huet skated again today, which means if they can get there, they might have a shot at getting their magic goaltending back. Although honestly, if Aebi can get them there, he'll deserve to stay in the #1 slot as long as he can hold it.
4. Gotta love the darari. 2 goals for Latendresse, who seems- like Komisarek- to be finding ways to compensate for being a slowish skater, and bonus points for attacking some Islander on Koivu’s behalf. 3 (slick as hell) assists for Kostitsyn, insha’allah he won’t be getting benched again. A goal and an assist for Plekanec, a goal for Higgins. Also a goal and an assist for Ryder, although I think he’s really too old for this category, but what the hell. Komisarek, as usual, isn’t on the scoresheet, but really there are moments when I think he’s the best young guy the Habs have got- plays more even-strength minutes than anyone else on the team, hits, blocks shots, looks out for his teammates, and has been a very solid + all year on a mostly minus team.
5. A few negatives: Souray needs to take his freakin’ slapshot on the power play. That’s what he does. Without it, honestly, he’s not that much better than Niinimaa (who by the way did quite well tonight). Also, what’s with the premature playoff beard? Wishful thinking? Koivu, as very wonderful as he is, reallyreallyreallyreally needs to stop with the penalties- I understand that a lot of them wouldn’t have been penalties a couple of years ago, this isn’t the NHL he came up in, but he’s got to adapt. You’d think after accidentally breaking that poor kid in the last game he’d have learned the evils of hooking. And Bouillon needs to not check Aebi, the poor goalie is jumpy enough as it is.
6. On the Islanders: I hope DiPietro is alright- he dove way out to try to deflect the puck away from Begin midway through the 1st, and his head ended up in an unfortunate (but accidental) collision with Begin’s skate. Also, as much as I like Ryan Smyth, and I do, on behalf of the entire non-Islanders portion of the Eastern Conference, we really would have preferred if he’d stayed in
In terms of the standings, nothing has actually changed- the Canadiens still sit in 11th place overall. But they’re now only 2 points down from 7th. They’re going to have to win pretty much every game for the rest of the season, and a few opponents may have to take regulation losses at key moments, but they are, in fact, still in it. It’s parchment paper hope, thin and brittle, for the Habs are not a team that streaks (at least, not in the winning way), but it’s good enough for now. We can hope, at least, that if they go down, they’ll go down playing this hard the whole way, and give us something worth cheering for until it's over, however it ends.
[Note on the free cake situation: All the answers were good, and very thought-provoking. So much so, in fact, that I think the thoughts provoked warrant a post of their own. But it doesn’t really matter who won, because y’all know I’d happily buy a cupcake for anyone who takes the time to talk hockey with me, and especially to commiserate on the tragedy of a bad loss.]