See? This is why I love that you read my blog, because you’re so very clever. No, that’s not Aebi, and that’s not this game, that’s the game against the Devils way back on February 14, and that’s Huet having just torn his hamstring. Why do I put it up now? Because in spite of everything that has happened this season that could have seriously damaged the Habs- the lazy losses, the stomach flu, the media pressure, the slumps, the injuries, the gossip, the discontented players- that moment, when Huet didn’t get up on his own, was the only one that really mattered. Everything else they can get over, play through, turn around, compensate for, but losing your #1 goaltender- that’s pretty much it, isn’t it? Yes, you might say, Huet was no guarantee of winning, he played his share of crap games. That’s true. But, as far as I can recall, Huet never lost the game for them. I can’t think of a game where the skaters played well, but lost because Huet just wasn’t making the ordinary saves. Aebi on the other hand…
1. Aebi lost this game, pure and simple. Sure, a couple of the goals were Not His Fault- The Venerable Sidney is venerated for good reason- but some of the others were just disgustingly, obviously, embarrassingly His Fault. One doesn’t like to say it, because it’s a terrible thing to blame the goalie. They have such stressful, difficult, lonely jobs, and they often take an unfair level of criticism just because, well, they’re always in close proximity when the worst happens. And Aebi has been good for the Canadiens on many occasions this season, in spite of his oddly twitchy style. He’s just been getting worse and worse since Huet’s been gone- maybe he’s missing the competition, or maybe he’s missing the support, or maybe he just doesn’t handle stress well. Whatever it is, the way he’s been playing, the Habs have been winning (when they win) in spite of him, not because of him. Unfortunately, it’s not like the other options are so phenomenal- Halak is primarily a big wad of potential- he’s very good in some areas, needs to improve considerably in others, and Leighton is a total mystery, which is not exactly what we want to be putting our faith on at this critical moment in the season.
2. The skaters, on the other hand, played quite well. Amazingly, after the first period, the Habs took no penalties. Wow. The top two lines are hella fun to watch these days, especially the Higgins-Plekanec-Kostitsyn trio, and dressing all 8 defensemen (Streit and Dandenault playing forward) seems to work well. Most impressively, Niinimaa and Souray make a pretty good defense pair, which is way up there on my list of Habs-related things I never thought I’d say. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed that Kovalev is going to be coming back- not because of any particular anti-Kovalev feeling, but just because the arrangement without him has been so nifty, and I don’t really want to see it disrupted.
3. I know what you’re thinking, how on earth can I say they played well when they only scored on the power play? Well, firstly, they did get some good 5-on-5 chances, such that I’m inclined to call it bad luck rather than bad play that kept them from scoring at even strength. But secondly, it’s important for the team to be good at the things they’re good at and take the opportunities they can get. So if special teams are their strength, than they’ve got to make their power plays count, and they did, and sometimes- a lot of times- that can be enough to win. Maybe it’s scary, but if Aebi had made some better decisions at some key moments, this game could easily have been won on 3 power-play goals. Plus, they were awfully pretty goals- Higgins on a wraparound (perhaps the only wraparound that’s worked for the Habs this year), Souray on a perfect straight shot right down the center of the slot (which honestly Fleury should have had, but I’m glad he didn’t, because it looked terrifically cool), and Markov on a quick little tip-in off Koivu’s pass.
4. I’ve decided to like the Penguins, because the games between them and the Habs are always exciting, and usually in the right ways. Weirdly enough, it’s not entirely because of
5. I suppose the “good news” is that the Leafs lost and the Rangers lost in OT, so none of our direct competition in the standings had any better of a night. At this rate, the bottom seed in the East is going to have, like, 85 points.
And now, proving that google is indeed the world's greatest random analogy generator, here's an assortment of pictures that come up when you search for 'cristobal huet'. I think they mean something...
’ important to be good and the things youn bad play that kept them from scoring at even strength. i-Kovalev feeling, but just be