Saturday, March 24, 2007

3-24-07: Canadiens 4, Capitals 1

Wait? What? Another win? Another big win? Holy shit, when did the Canadiens start being able to beat anyone by more than a one-goal margin? Oh yeah, last Thursday. Better late then never? Actually, I’m not sure, because it’s possible that late will end up being pretty much equivalent to never. Not that I’m complaining- you gotta take what you can get.

1. So, then, this is what they mean when they talk about Kovalev ‘showing up’? Pretty cool, I gotta say. But definitely not yet 4.5 million dollars worth of cool. Yes, he played fantastically tonight, but here’s a little perspective: tonight he got his 15th and 16th goals of the season, while Plekanec got his 19th and Ryder his 25th. So still not exactly a great value on the season- if he keeps putting in these kinds of performances such that they get into the playoffs, then maybe he can be forgiven. Maybe. Also, Kovalev was mic’ed for the evening, and dude is extremely, extremely talkative, but in an unexpectedly boring way- giving long lectures to his linemates about the sort of plays they might or might not be able to make, and what they could have done differently in X or Y situation. Sort of interesting, but honestly, I think I’d rather have listened to Komisarek spitting and shouting incoherently- that’s what hockey’s supposed to sound like.

2. News and notes: I ♥ Tomas Plekanec, but then again, so does everyone in Montreal these days- he, Higgins, and Kostitsyn are definitely The Next Big Thing. Actually, it’s interesting, because Carbonneau line-juggled everyone but that trio all night long in classic Carbo fashion, but unlike in the past, now everything he tries works. For months he would juggle and juggle and no one clicked with anyone, and now it seems like this assortment of forwards can work together in nearly any combination- not everyone scores, but no one’s looking bad. In fact, the whole team looks pretty good, the occasional stupid penalty or ugly turnover notwithstanding. It’s rather as if everything is just falling into place, and that’s good to see, although it may still be so late in the season that it won’t make enough of a difference in the end.

3. I think Ovechkin is very frustrated with life these days, and I certainly understand that, but really, that’s still no reason to go ramming Latendresse’s spikey lil’ head into the ice with his stick. And Komisarek really is sorry about the high stick. Really, really, really sorry. Looked like he was tearing up, he felt so bad.

4. Someone over at Habs Inside/Out comments that Halak looks like he’s in a trance through most of the game. My theory: you know how Montreal has this creepy tradition of untested baby goalies coming up huge in the final games of the season and almost single-handedly shoving the team into the playoffs? Ever thought that was a little strange, the way it seems to happen so often? Well, it’s actually not odd at all, because it’s the result of a secret spiritual discipline passed down through the generations, wherein any goalie in his first season with the Canadiens may call upon the Great Goaltending Spirit to come down and take possession of his body, at which point he is temporarily privileged to see clearly the terrible metaphysical truths of goaliedom, and also to make ridiculous saves in quantity. Some never fully recover their humanity afterwards. Therefore, the reason Halak looks so spacy is because he’s not really Halak anymore, but merely a vessel for the Great Goaltending Spirit. Either that or he actually is a lemur in a very clever mechanical suit.

5. You know what we need? For everyone else to lose more. That would be great.

So another victory, another 2 points in the right direction, but really all the Habs have done recently is prove that they are in fact better than the teams they ought to be better than. Tuesday will be critical- they’ve not played the Rangers well all season, and they’ve got to make the most out of the 3 remaining games they’ve got against teams in direct competition with them for playoff position (Rangers, Rangers, Leafs). Of course, everybody knows all this, but I’m trying to grasp here the essence of hockey commentary: point out something obvious with an attitude of expertise, insert the word ‘huge’ or variation thereof, and repeat often.

Tuesday’s game will be huge. Huge I say!


CapsChick said...

I'm so not admitting who I rooted for...let's just say this Caps' loss stung a little less and leave it at that.


Jordi said...

aww CC, you at least tried.

I've got a routine that I hope is what makes the Habs win. I'm actually crazy enough to continue it.

Lyle Richardson said...

The Habs still cannot afford to lose any of their remaining six games, but even if they should fall short, I'm pleased with their late-season recovery.

The reason why is because it's been the younger players carrying the load for most of this month, and that gives me hope for the future.

Yes, I know, we Habs fans have looked at our young players in recent years (Theodore, Hainsey, Marcel Hossa and Ribeiro were supposed to be building blocks for the future, remember?), but this time there's a different vibe with the Habs youth.

There's the "veteran youth" of Ryder, Komisarek and Markov who've established themselves now, but it's the kids who've stepped up this season who've impressed me the most.

Plekanec, Higgins, Latendresse, Lapierre, Halak, Kostitsyn and the recently acquired Gorges have been the guys stepping up this month. They're the guys giving the Habs a shot at a playoff berth that I didn't believe was possible three weeks ago.

Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette also pointed out that waiting in the wings are Kyle Chipchura,Mikhail Grabovski,Matt D'Agostini, Carey Price (WJC hero and top goalie)and Sergei Kostitsyn ("who turned 20 last week, played only 59 games for the London Knights this season, but finished third in the OHL in scoring with 131 points, three points behind Oshawa's highly touted John Tavares. Kostitsyn exploded during the second half of the season and led the Canadian Hockey League with 90 assists.")

Even if the Habs falter this season, the much-vaunted depth in youth finally appears ready to bloom, and that bodes well for the future.

E said...

cc- there's worse bandwagons to hop on these days, at least the canadiens will give you some drama to be wrapped up in. i realize in the original post i didn't give any credit to kolzig, btw. sorry about that.

jordi- the ritual must be maintained at all costs!

lyle- the really great thing about the kids doing so well isn't so much the hope for the future as the assurance that it's not just hope anymore. we're not just sitting around having blind faith in gainey's plan and praying for the best, there's actual proof that the kids can be fantastic.

my question is this, though: of course all the darari who are currently dazzling need to stay up, but it's also pretty important to bring up some of those you mention who are still waiting for a slot. thing is, the roster is already overcrowded as it is, how do we make room for new forwards next season? okay, sammy's as good as gone, murray probably too, but they've been sitting anyway. and of the older guys who've been playing: bonk and johnson are really the only forwards who could be described as 'consistent' all season, koivu is still the team's top point-getter by a significant margin, streit is a terrific asset for his versatility. i suppose you could argue that lapierre could basically step into begin's role, but jeez, i'd hate to see begin gone. and what on earth happens to perezhogin and his mystery-concussion?

Lyle Richardson said...

I have a suspicion that Bonk is likely gone, as he'll seek a raise over what he made this season. Johnson will be more affordable to retain.

Perezhogin seems to have incurred Carbo's displeasure which could possibly mean he's out, too. Begin will stick around, I think.

Not all the kids mentioned on the farm are likely to crack the roster, at least not at the start of the season. Chipchura's a good possibility and Grabovski didn't look out of place during his brief three-game tenure this season. I suspect Kostitsyn the younger, Price and D'Agostini will be with the Bulldogs next season.

You're also correct about the results of the kids being apparent now, rather than this unseen dream we've been clinging to for the past several years. The prospects are finally showing real promise during a key stretch of the season, and that bodes well for next season...or even, dare I say, the post-season?

kazmojo said...

Boy, I hope both Begin and Murray stick around next year. Both provide grit and energy, and are more concerned about the welfare of the team than their own health.

Sammy's probably gone though, and maybe Perezhogin too. That leaves the Habs with 10 non-UFA forwards carried over from this year (including Begin and Murray). Bob's gotta sign Johnson at least, and maybe Bonk too -- if he can be gotten at a reduced rate. That leaves only one spot open, which should be filled with a righty power forward. As much as I'm enamored of the kids on the farm, I don't think any of them fit the bill.

And then there's the defense. Souray and Niinimaa are probably gone, but Markov should be re-signed as priority #1. That leaves him, Komisarek, Bouillon, Dandenault, Streit and Gorges. But a righty with a good point shot would be in order to replace Souray, and also let Gorges fill in as a 7th. Habs might have to go the FA route to fill this need as well.

kazmojo said...

My math is way off: 15 non-UFA's + Bonk(?) + Johnson + Markov + 2 goalies = 3-4 short of the roster limit. Plenty of room to fill their aforementioned needs and promote a prospect or two.

E said...

kaz- me, i'd like begin to stay, but i've never been a big fan of murray- he does play hard, i'll give him that, but so do many of the prospies. it seems callous to say that heart doesn't count for much by itself, but it's nevertheless sort of true- the minors are filled with guys who would play a morally superior game (more grit, more passion, etc) to many of the pros, but just don't have the skills.

as to signing a ufa righty power forward, i think that's a daydream. the habs just plain suck at big free agent signings, and they've been looking for a power forward for years with no success (as i understand it, anyway). i'd rather see them keep struggling along without one than have another samsonovesque tragi-comedy play out through next season.

and yeah, there's enough spaces on the roster, but not everyone on the roster gets to play, so that's sort of what i was speculating about- if you bring up a kid, you want to give him decent chunks of time, not leave him, downey-like, in the press box night after night. i mean, if we're keeping koivu, kovalev, ryder, higgins, kostitsyn al-akbar, plekanec, bonk, johnson, streit, latendresse, lapierre, and begin, and then murray as you suggest, that leaves two spaces for, following lyle's suggestion, chipchura and grabovski, or for one of them and the hypothetical ufa power forward. so assuming all these are healthy, who sits?

on a side note, if both souray and niinimaa go, i wonder what they'll do for the remaining necessary defenseman... i suppose streit could just get moved back, that would free up a forward space...

Warhole said...

Gone for sure are B├ęgin (his playing time has been drastically reduced this year, and the team has enough PK specialists to replace him), Murray and Samsonov.

Don't be surprised if Ryder is traded during the summer, he is our biggest disposable asset right since Aebi lost pretty much all of its value.

About your cupcake contest of last week:

We had the perfect remedy for end season depression: the Expos. Before the team alienated the fans, we could almost forget how bad the Canadians sucked by thinking of sunny afternoon to spend at the Stade Olympique hammering beers while remotely watching the game.

The Canadiens may be the biggest team, but Montreal will never be the same without the Expos...

Go Alouettes ! (sigh...)

Doogie said...

kostitsyn al-akbar

Just out of curiosity, E, does this mean "Kostitsyn the Great"? I don't know any Arabic, but I swear I've seen something like that before.

E said...

warhole- meh, i'm not much for baseball, but my condolences to you anyway. i'm not sure i see why ryder would get traded over the summer. gainey tends to horde his assets, and trades more to get rid of players who are problematic in terms of cost or personality rather than to get better players. anyway, with so many talented kids and the option of free agent signings, i'm not sure i see why he'd give up anything, much less someone useful and inexpensive like ryder.

doogie- what i meant was something like 'kostitsyn the elder'. akbar is the comparative/superlative adjective meaning bigger/biggest, in any sense (physical size, age, metaphysical status, whatever). you've probably encountered the phrase allahu akbar translated in various news outlets as 'god is great', although it more literally means something like 'god is greatest'. but in that case, i was just referring to his age vis-a-vis the other kostitsyn under discussion.

Doogie said...

Okay, thanks for the clarification, E. I'm a bit of a language nerd, so these sort of things make me ask questions.

E said...

no problem. we always welcome language nerd-ism here at the theory, it makes us feel less freakish.