Friday, October 26, 2007

10-26-07: Canadiens 7, Hurricanes 4

Wise man once said, it’s better to be lucky than good.

But best of all to be both.

1. Mere days after blowing out Manny Fernandez with 6 goals in 20 shots, the Habs come back to blow out Cam Ward with 5 goals in 15 shots in one period. Unlike Fernandez, however, Ward clearly knows when it just ain’t his night and gracefully cedes to Grahame for the remaining two frames. But the last two games do bring home the point that it must be frightfully easy to cast the runes on goalies. All that equipment, so easy to take something, jot a little hex in some out-of-the-way nook, and return it with no one the wiser. Plus, this is hockey, so many Eastern Europeans around anyway, who’ll really notice if you add a kindly old gypsy woman to your staff? If I were Marc-Andre Fleury, I’d inspect my dandelion-pads extra carefully and refuse to accept anything from anyone in a babushka or excessively tasseled shawl for the next 19 hours. Carbonneau is a devious dude.

2. There are all kinds of power plays in the world. There are bad power plays, and good power plays, and then there is the Canadiens’ power play in this game, which is a soul-searing wonder of transcendent awesomeness, and once again the best in the League. Quoth Mike Commodore on NHL.com: "They moved the puck about as well as a power play can move it. We weren't great on the penalty-kill, but you have to give them credit. Their passes were right on the tape and when they had a chance to shoot, they shot. It was like Maurice Richard and Guy Lafleur out there." Now, normally I am all in favor of effusive praise for my Habs, particularly effusive praise that compares them favorably to their illustrious forebears, but that last part is just plain silly. But it says something that the power play was good enough to drive the misfortunate Cane to such madness- either that or he’s faking crazy to distract from the fact that he deflected a shot into his own net.

3. I’m not generally one to bitch about the refs, but I would like to point out that they were calling this game at a disturbingly leisurely pace. Basically every whistle came several long seconds after the event that caused it, which is very disturbing when both teams are spending the interval beating poor Huet with sticks. Start the paranoia Habistani rumor right now: THE NHL IS TRYING TO KILL OUR GOALIE.

4. However, because five of the seven goals were with the man-advantage, and the last was that most bizarre of phenomena, the short-handed empty-netter, this game also represents the return of one of the less charming facets of the Habs’ ways: the depressing +/-. What the hell kind of game does a dude get four points on the winning side and still come out -1?

5. Ironically, while previously it was difficult to talk about the Habs’ scoring because there was so little of it, now it’s difficult to discuss because there’s so much. It’s positively unsanitary; everybody is getting points these days, ain’t no Canadien touching the puck without somehow getting at least a second assist out of it. But here is a not-even-remotely-comprehensive assortment of kudos and congratulations:

a. Plekanec and Kovalev have apparently found a way to work together, or failing that, not get in each others way. While in the last three games, the Habs have been getting scoring from all their lines, the 2nd line has outscored all the others by nearly double, leading many to wonder why this duo is so effective now after being so useless last year. Asked about this at the intermission, Pleks dissembles- he’s not sure if his chemistry with Kovalev is any better, all the scoring is on the power play, etc. And it’s true, they don’t look like any great exemplar of cooperation and coordination out there. But whatever they’re doing, it’s working at last- who knows, maybe Latendresse makes all the difference, now that he’s found his mojo and is behaving like more than just a very large mid-ice obstacle. Plekanec’s four points tonight, however, are no more than he should have earned for his efforts over all the previous games.

b. Koivu gets the two of the most pointless points ever: the goal off Commodore’s deflection and an assist on Dandenault’s empty-netter. You couldn’t come up with a better representation of the Habs’ recent change of fortune- whereas little more than a week ago, nobody on the team seemed able to get a point for any amount of work, now they can get two-point nights off lucky bounces alone.

c. With two goals in the last three games, Chupacabra (yes, I will call him that all season) is becoming more and more interesting to watch. In spite of the occasional conspicuous brain-glitch, he’s looked very at-home on NHL ice, and seems to become exponentially more comfortable by the day- particularly in comparison to Kostitsyn and Grabovski, who have been juggled around the lines and have yet to find a permanent home. Our lovely goat-sucker may not be the most talented guy on the ice, but he’s quickly cementing himself a place.

It’s sad to realize how short-lived this buzz is. A couple of hours ago, when the game actually ended, I was so excited I’m pretty sure I literally bounced off a few walls before I started writing. But by this time tomorrow, depending on what happens in the Penguins game, I might be ineffectually girlie-punching those same walls until my knuckles turn red. There is nothing so glorious as a blowout victory; similarly there is nothing so easily forgotten. Because nights like this it does seem more like luck than anything else- the way the Habs played this game, the things they did well, are pretty much what they’ve been doing all season. This isn’t last year’s team with their manic-depressive one good period/one bad period, one win/one loss rhythm. No, this incarnation of ahbabi has been, so far, the very model of respectable consistency. But some games it works, other games it doesn’t, and who can say why? I’m not sure it has anything whatsoever to do with either their effort or their ingrained abilities. It’s just the karma of bounces- we had a few games of terrible ones, now we get a few games of great ones. Still, when the hockey gods offer you this kind of good fortune, there’s nothing to do except hope it holds as long as possible. And hope that Fleury is as naïve and credulous a soul as he seems: “Oh thanks, Mrs. Horvath, I’m so glad you found my blocker…”

1 comment:

Matt D said...

E, where are you? We miss you! We need to hear your thoughts on shootouts, and losing to Atlanta, and Quebec language politics.