Saturday, March 03, 2007

3-3-07: Bruins 3, Canadiens 1

This was a game for drinking.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I don’t generally drink when watching hockey games. I know most people do, but most people can handle alcohol. I can’t. Drinking makes me sad, but sad in a very bearable way, sad in a meaningful, sing-the-blues kind of way, which means that if I know I’m going to be sad anyway, might as well drink and sing about it. Hence, this was a game for drinking.

1. Remember what I said yesterday about how the Habs can’t score when they get good goaltending? Well, tonight Halak was pretty strong, and they did nothing. NOTHING. They couldn’t even get anything going on the freakin’ power play, and they’re supposed to be good at that. To be fair, Thomas robbed them on a few really nice tries, but those tries were way too few and far between. Halak ain’t no Huet, but he’s sure as hell good enough to win with, and I wish the team could realize that. And the measure of how unpopular Aebischer is after last night’s disaster: a mid-game survey on RDS found that more fans (14%) want to see Leighton starting for the Habs than Aebi (7%). Ouch. For those of you who don’t know, Leighton is the guy the Canadiens picked up off waivers from Philly at the trade deadline- this season, he’s played for 4 different NHL teams and 2 AHL teams, and gotten exactly 5 starts in the big time.

2. I’m getting the feeling that Souray is a very unhappy guy these days. Recent rumors suggest that he might actually be willing to resign in Montreal, but the way he looks in the games I think they might be driving him away by sheer force of suckiness. On the ice he’s chippy and irritable, on the bench he looks sullen, and even after a goal he seems vengeful more than happy. Dude, cheer up- you’re already the closest thing the Canadiens have to a bona fide celebrity player, the Montreal media adores you like no one else, you’ve got another kid on the way, and next year somebody is going to give you like 8 billion dollars to keep thwacking them gorgeous point shots at very nervous goalies. Life is good. You don’t need to start cross-checking people in the face, even if they are Bruins.

3. Can some charitable Habs fan out there explain Kovalev to me? And I don’t mean the standard he’s-mysterious-but-when-he-shows-up-he’s-great explanation, because I’ve heard that one all season, and I ain’t buying it anymore. Everyone seems to believe that he’s consciously choosing to be not good most of the time, and one day he’ll just choose to be good, and everything will be fine. Leaving aside the question of why anyone would want a player who’s going to choose to suck 60+ games a season, I’m sort of starting to doubt that explanation. I mean, I’m just speculating here, but what if he really isn’t as good anymore as whatever it is he used to be? Everyone is more than willing to believe that about Samsonov, why not Kovalev? Yes, I see his tremendous skills on display every now and then, but I also see them doing not much more than killing time most nights, and sometimes he’s just like a black hole in the center of the ice, sucking all the energy, light, and possibly will to live out of everyone around him. Look, I really don’t mean to run the guy down, but he makes so much damn money and people put so much damn faith in him, and I just need to understand why, because right now, seeing him on the ice just makes me, well, want to drink heavily. And use italics quite a bit, apparently.

4. Things I love about hockey: Latendresse, who in spite of his youth is one of the biggest guys on the team, gets into a little shoving match with some Bruins in front of their net. Immediately, Lapierre, Begin, and Gorges, all of whom are smaller than the kid, rush to the rescue as though he’s a little girl being mauled by wolves. There’s something noble (if a little misguided) about it, the way they try to look out for each other, even when it’s unnecessary and mostly symbolic.

5. You know what’s hilarious? When people try to body-check Chara. Lapierre tried to do it tonight and bounced off him like a little bleu-blanc-rouge Super Ball off a brick wall. I’m not sure Chara even noticed. Also, even though he murderized us tonight, I kind of like Thomas for his sheer stubborn refusal to look even the least bit athletic. It’s like the Bruins decided to put a big stuffed panda bear in goal.

Time to bust out my very best Janis Joplin impersonation- freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…. Can I just pretend that they’re officially out of it now? I mean, I know there’s still a chance, but it’s getting to the point where it really hurts to try to stay hopeful, because every time they pull their way up into a playoff spot, they just get knocked down again, and I’m starting to think they just look too tired to pull out any more miracles. There’s so much potential there, some of which they’ve realized at times this seaon, but it’s easier now to think of it as next year’s potential, even if it does feel like a little bit of a betrayal to do so.

I always thought it must be interesting to be the Flyers this year, just because they were so obviously out of it so long ago. It must have been horrifically painful at the beginning, to collapse like that, but the season reels on anyway, and I wonder if it doesn’t feel a little liberating after a while, to realize that there’s nothing riding on any of the games anymore. Maybe they can just play hockey for its own sake, no expectations, no consequences. Or maybe that’s just what I’d like right now, for there to be no more expectations riding ahbabi, no more demands, no more postseason-guillotine suspended over our collective heads. Just hockey.


Julian said...

I'm telling you E, Major Junior hockey. Look into it. Their playoffs will be starting soon, if you find a competetive team somewhere you can get to easily, I'd highly encourage you to go to a playoff game or two. Or as many as possible.

A few years ago I camped out at three in the morning for Kitchener Rangers playoff tickets, it was so worth it I did it again three more times.

alice said...

On Kovalev, you are simply seeing the essence of the player. He is what he is, and always has been, going back to his first stint with the Rangers. What you get is long stretches of WTF, punctuated by moments of breath-taking skill. There has always been promise that he has yet to realize. It is a measure of the promise that, after 10+ years in the league, it is not hopelessly benighted to wonder when he will grow into his talent.

That said, the most frightening thing most Rangers fans have ever seen was a pre-game segment in which Kovalev, a newly-minted pilot, took the host on an aerial tour of Manhattan; some of the airspace they flew through is now, thanks to another athlete-pilot with more money than sense, off-limits to small planes.

E said...

julian- i did look into it! the closest teams seem to be at least a couple of hours away from the city, and i don't have a car, so i don't think it's gonna work out. the logistics would be tricky going by bus or train, given that i do have a real life that sometimes requires my attention. so i guess i'm stuck with seeking comfort in hasidic pre-teen road hockey, once the snow clears again.

alice- it's pretty unusual to be talking about a 34-year-old player 'growing into his talent'. i suppose i can understand the essence of him, peculiar though it may be. what's hard for me to understand is the way other people react to that essence- how can any team afford to carry all that encompassing strangeness at a cost of 4 million-plus per year?

alice said...

how can any team afford to carry all that encompassing strangeness at a cost of 4 million-plus per year?

Arrogance. Seriously. What I mean is, the league is littered with coaches and GMs who thought they could harness that talent. They couldn't, at least not for long. And some of them now do their GMing from the broadcast booth.

Julian said...

That's an awful shame E. I understand Montreal used to have a team, but they moved to PEI. Great for PEI at least.

I have a rule that whichever city I end up settling down in (whenever that may be) back home, it has to have a major junior team.

Doogie said...

Well, I live in Calgary, and I'm a Hitmen season-ticket holder, so playoffs are easy for me. :)

Jordi said...

What happened to "Kovalev is money in playoffs"? I guess it's just Kovalev IS money. If the man can damn well get a Pittsburgh physician to look after his injuries, he should've been thinking about a lot of things to fix the game.

I hate how the team seems to have so many problems, and those problems are fully imploding thanks to the fact that we're losing. And I was just leaving Montreal when they were winning!

E said...

jordi- have some faith in the kids, a lot of the 25-and-under crowd are developing really beautifully. next year, i think, will be a little better, and the following year a lot better (providing we can resign at least a few of the 'good 4' UFAs). i missed most of the winning streak too, in chicago, and i'm still pissed about that, but at least they've won 3/4 games i've actually gone to...

julian- out of curiosity, why do you think that junior hockey will be such a redemptive thing for me? i somehow think it would be likely to give me a rather nasty jolt of culture shock, especially just going in cold, by myself, as i would be if i got on the bus for drummondville tonight. from what little i know of it, i find the mechanics of the canadian junior hockey system very disorienting- there's no easy analogy for it in any of my previous experience. so what will it do for me, other than give me the opportunity to potentially attach myself to a winning team without openly betraying ahbabi?

Erik said...

Give you a different experience? I sometimes go to Welling games when I'm back home (by which I mean I'm not at university), and it is a very different experience to my usual team, Charlton. To compare, Charlton are like Philadelphia, in that they should be good but have just slumped this season, whereas Welling are something like four or five leagues lower than Charlton are.

Julian said...

Well E, that's a pretty good question. I'll try not to make this too long, but please bear with me.

Redemption? I'm not quite sure what you mean by that. I don't think you need redemption, I don't think you're disillusione with the NHL or the Habs, and I think (maybe secretly) you're quite happy (fine, ok) with cheering for a team with little left to play for.

I suggest it for a couple of reasons.

I may be going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing you've never seen high level hockey game from ice level. It's a different game from there, you'll get a very different perspective. Sure, the CHL isn't the NHL, but it's still pretty good hockey. You can also move around, get different vantage points from different hights from the ice. I'm sure you've noticed how different a live game is compared to one on TV, it's the same thing when you're four rows up versus when you're 400 rows up.

These kids play hard, they know the odds aer incredibly stacked, but they also know scouts are in the arena every night. A playoff game will be one of the most intense hockey games you'll ever see.

If you're lucky, you'll find a team with a community that really cares about its team, in an arena that seats about 5000 people. I hate to get cliched, but the atmosphere (in Kitchener anyway) really does get, well, electric. I can't really describe it any other way. You may get some culture shock, but it's still hockey, it's still the same game, just more.... real. Perhaps I'm just too cynical about the pro game. But no one's there because of a corporate dinner date, and none of the players feel like they can mail it in.

Betraying your first love? No, on the contrary, if you go to a game where a Habs prospect happens to be playing, you can get a little taste of the future.
I gather (I may be wrong) that one of the reason you love this game so much is the attachment to the players. With junior hockey, you see them as they grow up, as they become the player they will be (a very select few of them anyway) years down the road in the NHL, but with all the rough spots still there. I'll probably always keep an eye on the fortunes of Mike Richards (of the Flyers) simply because I saw him play for my OHL team for a number of years including some spectacular playoff games.

There are drawbacks of course. Junior hockey is a little more violent, like I said, it's full of guys trying to make an impression. It has its benefits though, it certainly ramps up the intensity, it isn't staged violence.
If you're going into a game blind, you're not gonna know anything about the players, know their stories or where they're coming from. The turnover rate in Junior hockey is quite high. It certainly creates a disconnect, it's hard to get attached to a player when none spend more than four years on the team. If you go into a game blind, it's hard to have any attachment to the players. But great stories still exist, I'd reccomend checking out Gare Joyce's blog, he's a hockey writer who talks about Junior hockey and specific players quite a bit. Anyway, that's why I suggested going to a number of games if possible. Which apparently, it isn't. But I understand that it's hard to get into a game when you don't have anything emotional invested in the result.

Well, I should probably cut it off there. If you do have any questions about the mechanics of the game, feel free to just ask me questions or email me or something.

Katie O'D said...

"It’s like the Bruins decided to put a big stuffed panda bear in goal."
Love it. Tim Thomas IS a panda bear, albeit one that throws himself in front of the many pucks that the Bruins let through. He lives in my town and I actually think I saw him in Starbucks this afternoon.
Have you seen this
clip of Chara and Gionta? It's my favorite. I can't help but love the fiesty little guy. I mean, large, powerful, Jason Smith-like men regularly bounce off Chara; what would make Gionta think this was a good idea?

E said...

julian- "more... real"? sometimes i think i've already got way more reality than i can handle...

katie- i once thought i saw cristobal huet at the laundromat, but than i figured, no, he probably has a washing machine.

Julian said...

That's just me being cynical E.