Tuesday, November 27, 2007

11-27-07: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3

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 Montreal, it’s drowning out all Habs-related gossipy media shit-storms, and that pisses me off. Beat us at hockey? It sucks, but it happens. Beat us at off-ice melodrama? No fucking way. That can’t be allowed to stand. Unfortunately, losing to the Habs in this fashion is probably only going to enhance the Leafs’ status as the premiere hockey telenovela of the moment. [Sigh]. I’m not sure it was worth it, frankly.

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 Montreal conspiring against them, but even their own. Who needs the ice resurfaced three times before a shootout? Paranoiacs, that’s who.

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.


kazmmmooooo!!!!!! said...

You feel bad for Leafs fans and Cubs fans, understandably enough. I feel bad for Habs fans who have yet to discover this blog. Hilarious!

I've noticed the late game lead thing too. Given Jeff's comments about Koivu's line being used as a second checking line, I wonder if a real second checking line ought to be put in place, instead of this fourth line/energy line BS.

Of course, we don't exactly have the personnel for it. But I don't see how playing Ryder, Latendresse or Grabovski on any of those lines helps any.

Anonymous said...

One thing I did notice -- since it's salient to that discussion I was having with Jeff in the last game recap...

With the last change last night, I noticed Maurice matched up Sundin against Plekanec and Kovalev a fair bit. Notably at the start of the first two periods, Carbo sent Plekanec to open, and Maurice replied with Sundin. Sundin was sent out for a huge share of faceoffs though(he murdered Plekanec on faceoffs).

That didn't work too well for him, though, as the Pleky line the game even and Sundin didn't threaten all that much. At any rate, Sundin finally did score in the dying moments, but by then Montreal had an ad-hoc defensive line centered by Koivu on the ice. Meanwhile the Koivu line did score at even-strength, against the Stajan line.

The one line that didn't do well at even strength was Chipchura's, and frankly that's a tale of hard luck as the two goals by the Leafs were defensive breakdown by defensemen just after their hard work had generated some good chances.

I'm not in Maurice's head so I can't say why the shift in strategy, or even if there was one...

Anonymous said...

Besides, this week we learned all this talk of third lines and matchups is pointless, as Montreal either has 4 fourth lines or 4 second lines, depending on whether you believe Guy Lafleur or Bob McKenzie. That makes line match-ups a lot easier, doesn't it? ;D

E said...

kaz- sometimes i think that some of the things carbo stumbles on in his panicked losing-streak shuffles have potential, but the second anything starts looking up he tends to revert to his defaults, even if the defaults were exactly the thing that wasn't working- for example, taking ryder off the first line, only to put him back the second he scores a goal with his new trio. personally, i kinda liked it last year when they ended up with 3 scoring lines and 1 checking line, but i don't think those days will come again any time soon.

mathman- i had noticed that, on the faceoffs, there was a fair amount of sundin/plekanec (and stajan/koivu) going on, and it did strike me that that was a change from what you'd been discussing, but i didn't take the time to follow the matches closely. i'm not complaining, since it seemed to work for us. but you actually raise a good point- maybe it's the 'ad hoc defensive line[s]' that are contributing to the late goals? carbo does tend to juggle towards the very end of games, often combining guys who hardly ever play together otherwise- maybe it leads to miscommunication? it's a theory anyway.

Jeff J said...

mathman: "With the last change last night, I noticed Maurice matched up Sundin against Plekanec and Kovalev a fair bit."

I noticed that too. He just had to go and prove me wrong, didn't he :) Maybe with Latendresse in Ryder's spot he figured Pleks/Kovy was the bigger threat.

It's interesting that Bell-Sundin-Antropov combined for 7 shots at EV in periods 1 & 2, while Kastsitsyn-Pleks-Kovy had zero. Stajan-Steen-Devereaux had 2 shots in periods 1 & 2, Higgins-Koivu-Lats had 7.

And, yeah, Koivu made a mistake on that tying goal. The craziest thing about that goal was that Komisarek was on the ice for the preceding 3:05 straight. Even with the timeout, that was a ridiculously long shift. It's no coincidence Sundin scored from the right post. It was not Komi's fault - he shouldn't have been on for that long. It's on Carbonneau, or whoever on the Habs' bench is responsible for changing the D.