For once, I’m not going to bother counting up what all the other teams did and didn’t do tonight. Realistically, everyone knows that it’s all going to come down to Saturday, in
1. Pre-game, Streit is given the ‘Jacques Beauchamp’ trophy, which is an award given out at the end of the season to whoever has contributed most to the teams’ success without getting significant prior recognition. In other words, it’s an award that more or less could have been invented just so that an award could be given to Mark Streit- chronically wonderful and chronically undervalued. Multicongratulations.
2. Halak finally gets his first NHL point, thank God. I know he’s great defensively, blocks shots like it’s his job or something, and eats Bruins for breakfast (2nd jeu blanc), but he really hadn’t contributed anything offensively yet and we need scoring from everyone, dammit! EVERYONE!
3. It’s really a shame that I can’t write competently about Saku Koivu, because he deserves some sort of glowing praise for playing an almost Meaningful Game at the point in the season where every game means everything and nothing at the same time. But I think his first goal of the night says everything that needs to be said. Go watch the highlights. And this is now, officially, the best season of his career, in terms of points (71) and goals (22). Of course, those aren’t really dazzling numbers on the grand scale of the League, but they somehow still seem amazing to me, and evidently to the crowd at the
4. And speaking of personal achievements, let’s all give Latendresse a big round of applause for his very first NHL fight. (*sniffle*) They grow up so fast… Anyway, as befits a gigantic person, even one inexperienced in professional-level brawling, I think he did pretty well. Although honestly I still have no idea how you’re supposed to tell who has ‘won’ a hockey fight unless it results in unconsciousness. But extra credit to Gui for successfully pulling off the jersey-over-the-head maneuver, which as I understand it is the most essential part of the entire ritual.
5. Of course, if he’s going to keep playing next to Lapierre, he better get accustomed, because that boy just loves the extracurricular shoving matches. I’m not quite sure how he manages to piss people off so regularly, because for the most part he doesn’t seem to be playing dirty or doing anything to warrant such displeasure- the refs don’t think so anyway. So it must be a particularly skillful use of the trash-talking. Perhaps he has an unusually large repertoire of yo-momma jokes, specifically tailored to whatever is the most offensive possible quality one could attribute to a mother in the player’s native culture. Well, that’s what I’d do, anyway, if it was my job to skate around and try to provoke Chara into cross-checking me in the face. Wait, why does he want to do that again?
6. Isn’t it rude to start victory-snuggling with the goalie before the game is even over? Sure, there was no way that
7. The best thing about the new Gatorade commercial for Sidney Crosby is that it involves a fairly minimal amount of actual Sidney Crosby. Much more bearable that way.
The terrible thing about this particular pre-playoff situation is that it becomes incredibly difficult to take any joy in an individual game, no matter how perfect the outcome. The Habs are one of the very few teams in the League who remain in limbo, neither counted among the blessed nor the damned, and for them- for us?- nothing really matters except survival. About a week ago I pretty much stopped seeing anything except for the 2 points that might or might not be. It ceased to really matter to me how they won or even how they played as long as they could get the freakin’ points and keep going. And somehow in all of that I missed the fact that my Canadiens have actually started to become, at the furthest extremity of desperation, exactly the team I always wanted them to be. They’re good. They’re playing fast, smart, creative hockey against tough opponents and winning with it, and the critical thing is that it’s their game. It’s not ‘overperforming’ or ‘underperforming’, it’s just being what they are- the players finding the roles and the styles that work for them, and more importantly, the focus to pull it all together. It’s not perfect hockey, you can still see clearly that they’re missing some key qualities that you would want on an ideal team, a great team. But who wants an ideal team? Sure, you think you do, but let’s face it: there’s nothing more boring than perfection. There’s a reason that every single sports movie is about a disorganized group of barely competent rejects who find a way to scrape past a vastly superior force at the last possible second; somehow it’s more fun, more sexy, more inspiring, and more meaningful to be just barely good enough than to be great. And really, no one is more just barely good enough than ahbabi.