I noticed something at the end of this game, as at the end of Bruins-whooping earlier this week: when the Habs left the ice, they left with blank, almost bored-looking expressions. Sure, there were a few exceptions, we all know Huet grins like a lunatic at irregular intervals for no particular reason, and Chupacabra still can’t shake that just-happy-to-be-here look, but for the most part, they’ve reacted to these victories- impressive victories, fantastic victories, the kind of victories one would think most athletes get wet dreams over- with all the solemnity of monks attending compline at the end of a particularly trying day.
It’s a performance; they are affecting the deportment of a habitually victorious team, which simultaneously combines a kind of dismissive arrogance (“What, another two points? Dear me, where shall we put them? There’s no room left on the mantle… have Kirk check the broom closet, perhaps there’s a little space left in there…) with a sense of etiquette (those who win easily and substantially should react with stoic grace, not rub the losers’ collective nose in it with gratuitous celebrations that might be interpreted as gloating). But it’s a weird posture to see my Habs in, because I still feel like they should be making burnt offerings in praise to the hockey gods after every goal and every point. We’re good enough these days, but we’re not that good… are we?
1. Bégin, at least, should be offering some sort of gesture of gratitude to The Powers That Be for this game, because really truly, how often does he have multi-goal nights? RDS can answer this: once every couple of years, and in this case, not since Valentine’s Day 2004. Think of it this way: there are lower orders of rodent for whom Steve Bégin having a 2 goal night is literally a once-in-a-lifetime event. Now, for their sake, doesn’t that warrant a little bit of a party? And if you can’t or won’t give thanks to The Powers, at least give thanks to Dandenault and Smolinski.
2. Is it too much to hope that Higgins has finally shaken his mysterious affliction and is going to start getting the sort of results on the scoresheet that his efforts deserve? Probably, but I’m going to go ahead and dream anyway.
3. If you’ll look to the comments of the previous ‘game recap’, you’ll find some very detailed, insightful analysis of Carbonneau’s coaching decisions in the Sens game by Jeff, of the now-tragically-defunct Sisu Hockey blog. One thing his comments reminded me of, though, is actually a post he did last season which incidentally discussed the kind of opposition Carbonneau matches against Koivu’s line (customarily labeled ‘1st’) versus Kovalev’s line (‘2nd’). The conclusion was basically that last year Carbonneau tried to give the 2nd line the softest possible match-ups, while the 1st line faced considerably stronger opponents, and that such must be taken into account when comparing the output of the two. Jeff pointed out, yesterday, that apparently this policy continues to hold in the current season, which does put rather a different light on the question of whether the 1st line is ‘struggling’ vis-à-vis the 2nd. Now, last year, the major problem was that the Kovalev-Samsonov-Random Miserable Stray Bulldog line didn’t produce anything even with easy minutes, whereas Kovalev-Plekanec-Kostitsyn is producing offence like pancakes at a Denny’s™. But I would be curious to know if it really is the case that they’re customarily playing very weak opponents, and particularly whom on each team. Unfortunately, I am far, far too lazy to do the research necessary to sate my curiosity. This ain’t no Oilers blog.
4. Cristobal Huet: Probably tastes like alligator jerky, but the good kind that’s made by eccentric Cajun folk in dank, orchid-filled bayous, not that interstate reptile farm crap.
5. I am not, for the record, anti-fighting, but I would like to take a minute to rant and rave about one aspect of it that does annoy me: the idea that fights ‘shift the momentum’ of games. Now, there are possibly lots of good reasons to have a hockey fight, but that is not one of them, because as far as I can tell, this is a complete and total myth. A fantasy. A delusion. It is hockey’s version of the classic ‘the white van is always parked around the corner’ fallacy- you notice the occasional game when a fight coincides with a shift in which team dominates the play, and assume causality between the two events, while conveniently ignoring the hundreds and hundreds of times when a fight makes absolutely no difference in anything that happens when the clock is running. I bring this up because, as I’m seeing the Habs get substantial early leads in more and more games, I’m noticing that they’re also getting in rather more fights (or attempted fights- ahbabi are peaceable, loving creatures after all) than they used to, and I have yet to see it make any difference. In fact, I have yet to see any game where a team with a solid lead and a general dominance over the rhythm of play collapsed into a pathetic heap of quivering terror just because some dude on the other team punched one of them a few times. Granted, I’m sure it’s happened at some point or another, but holy shit, how did that come to create this general belief that fights-change-momentum, over and against the vast majority of available evidence? (Note: this is what we in the hockey-blog business like to call ‘foreshadowing’. Cue dramatic music…)
Standings notwithstanding (yes, I did use that phrase purely because it makes me laugh), the Habs seem to be settling into a strangely familiar win-one, lose-one rhythm, which while not necessarily the worst possible thing, isn’t exactly worth getting all uppity about. Next time, boys, I expect celebrating. Leave the stoicism for the very good and the very bad, them what hover in the middle should be grateful for games won both well and easily.
And speaking of gratitude, tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. For some reason, in moving from the States to