And so, having had an unusually long summer full of strawberry daiquiris, bikram yoga, and deep personal reflection, our heroes return to the site of their ignominious defeat. They have trained, and struggled, and prepared for this day via intensive golfing regimens, and now that they come once again to face the villainous team that single-handedly deprived them of what almost certainly would have been an inspiring Stanley Cup run, they are firmly resolved to… well, apparently, to suffer a slightly less ignominious defeat.
1. Actually, a much less ignominious defeat. On the objective scale of losses, this was as sugar-coated and artificial-watermelon-flavored as possible, which is to say still nauseating but not enough to induce vomiting. Compared to April 7th, I’ll gladly take this kind of losing. Because it was still a pretty good game- at least there was no twenty-minute ensemble disappearing act, and most of the lines seemed to come back after any bad shift with a better one. Perhaps you couldn’t really call it a consistent performance, but the effort was there. And hey, if you’re going to lose, OT is definitely the way to do it. If they hadn’t blown a fucking two point lead I might have been able to get through this whole recap without profanity.
2. Still tinkering with the special teams. Looks like the first-wave PP unit is pretty well set at Markov-Streit-Ryder-Koivu-Kovalev, but other than that it seems like a free-for-all out there. Carbonneau probably just spins some sort of Wheel of Penalty Killing to choose his combinations. Which is fine by me at this point, he’s got a lot of new pieces to experiment with and might as well indulge his mad-scientist compulsion to try every possible mix.
3. Poor Plekanec, he must lose a lot of bets to always get the difficult centering assignments. Granted, Latendresse and Smolinski/Kostopolous isn’t nearly as depressing a challenge as Kovalev and Samsonov, but still- it’s sad to see our be-turtle-necked baby all on his own again. One of the best players on the Habs’ side all night, he created several interesting chances, which were all the more so because he got very little help from his wings- Latendresse looks like a partially-sedated hippo lately (careful, he does bite).
4. The Russian line (question: why do we so often seem to have a line that’s organized on the principle of ‘let’s put all the Russians together’?) is still a long way from gelled. Kovalev was fairly active, ahamdulillah, but Kostitsyn looked… well, he looked young. He is young, of course, but he doesn’t have to go wallowing in it like that, does he? But anyway, in spite of a series of disappointing shifts, they did ultimately get on the scoresheet, so who am I to criticize?
5. Many congratulations to Dandenault on his first goal of the season, several months earlier than last year. Maybe being a forward isn’t so bad for Mathieu- possibly he’ll be able to keep his job, anyway. Brisebois, on the other hand, is looking like a guy who feels far too secure in his employment. [cringe]
6. The Leafs’ plan for this game seemed to primarily consist of beating the shit out of the Canadiens. This is because apparently the word on the street is that they’re a bunch of tiny fragile Euroids. Which is kinda true, actually, but at least they’re determined tiny fragile Euroids. To be fair, a few Habs- Komisarek, Bouillon, Begin, Kostopolous, Hamrlik- seem to be doing their very best to raise the overall rate of hitting, but it seems that ahbabi are fated to be one of those teams more thwacked-against than thwacking, which isn’t going to get them a lot of love in this post-Ducks-world in which we live in. Higgins took the worst of it, possibly because they figured he’s breakable, drawing three penalties and a disproportionate amount of additional abuse, but the boy isn’t easily shaken and played beautifully anyway, including a gorgeous set-up for Markov’s goal. And speaking of Markov, Sundin is obviously jealous of the stunning good looks of our top D pairing. Mats, just because you’re not pretty yourself doesn’t mean you get to go around smashing other people’s faces indiscriminately.
In a rare display of self-control, I’m not going to throw a tantrum about this. Firstly, because it’s early October and if I waste all my bilious ranting now I won’t have any left by February; and secondly, because if every game they lose is lost in this fashion, that’d be a fairly good season. Well, providing they win every now and then too.