Generally speaking, I don’t really mind the Leafs. I know, I know, it’s the historic rivalry, I’m supposed to hate them, but… come on, they’re kinda cute in a way, aren’t they? Maybe it’s from growing up around so many Cubs fans, but I always find something sort of sweet about teams that have large, devoted cults in spite of chronic failure. Of course, it’s always fun to play up the ‘rivalry’ in a trash-talking sort of way, but realistically speaking, there are a whole passel of teams I feel more genuine hatred for than the Leafs. However, the recent gossipy media shit-storm surrounding the Leafs has gotten to the point where, even in
1. Lafleur being a dork aside, our biggest current media chatter was about Latendresse getting moved up to the first line in Ryder’s slot, in spite of his generally unimpressive play thus far this season. Personally, I think it’s a move designed to shame Ryder- hey, look, we could put a heavily-drugged, three-legged cow on that line and it’d do better than you. Not that Latendresse is usually a three-legged cow, I love the boy and I do have faith in his long-term development, but there’s not a lot of ground to argue that he’s been playing in a first-line-worthy fashion. But, oh my, he gets himself a goal. Not a particularly nice one, but they all look the same on the scoreboard.
2. On the ice, however, there are goals and there are goals. Kovalev really does know how to bring the pretty, doesn’t he? 2 in regulation, 1 in the shootout, and they’re lovely enough as numbers, but the style of them will absolutely elevate your soul and break your heart. These days Kovy goes around the ice like a girl at a party who knows, for a fact, that she’s the hottest thing in the room- absolutely confident that he’ll get what he wants in the end, whatever might be happening in the given moment. You hate the arrogance of it, but still… ain’t nobody looking away. Even if they are mostly powerplay goals. Speaking of which, VIVA LA POWER PLAY!
3. This was not, objectively speaking, Koivu’s best game- he got an assist, but also made a misplay that led to the last-minute tying goal (more on this later). But my heart goes out to him, and not just because it generally does anyway: he played this game really freakin’ hard, getting into everything everywhere and taking a lot of physical punishment. Every time we play the Leafs the size issue gets brought up, and Koivu is held up as emblematic of the Habs’ deficiencies in this area, but the guy really does do everything he possibly can to compensate. Maybe he still gets out-muscled by opposing players more often than one would like, but at least he doesn’t make it easy for them.
4. Huet is training Price well, for the team got outshot 46-30 and left him hanging for long stretches of the 1st and 3rd, and the only hint of irritation the lad showed was over the interference non-call on the last goal- which, to be fair, is an understandable thing for a goalie to be perturbed over. Still, he’s going to have to learn to squelch these inappropriate flares of emotion or someday he might become a real boy.
5. I’m concerned about this tendency the Habs have to give up very late goals at very critical moments. In 24 games, the Habs have given up goals in the last five minutes of play in 9 of them, 7 of those in the final two minutes, and that’s not including empty-netters. Of those 7 GsA, 3 forced overtime, and 3 led to losses. 4 were scored at even strength. In comparison, the Habs have only scored goals-for in the last five minutes twice all season, both times by Higgins. It’s odd, really, because overall I’d say our defensive play is stronger than it was last season, but they’re doing a terrible job of protecting ties and one-goal leads during those penultimate seconds, and it’s really costing. Give up the same goal earlier and you have a chance (however slim) to make it up, but with sixty-some seconds to go, it’s over, and it’s hella demoralizing as well. They should just hang a sign up at the Bell Centre for visiting teams- show up, get a free point. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I’m allowed- this worries me).
6. Leafs-notes: Some will say that the greatest pain is getting scored on by Tucker, but for my money, the Kilger goal was actually harder to watch. It’s a terrible thing to see your team on the receiving end of a surprisingly nifty and successful play- the hockey fan in you wants to appreciate it, but the partisan in you wants to find the most adorable stuffed animal in the house and decapitate it manually. Also, sometimes it is brought home to me that Sundin is actually a rather dangerous object. Good thing they keep him swathed in the protective bubble-wrap of incompetence, otherwise he might really do some damage. And apparently they now believe that not only are the Zamboni drivers in
Actually, you know what? I lied. This win, it was totally worth it, even if it means that the tabloids will be full of Maurice’s sickly, jaundiced face for weeks to come.