Thursday, January 10, 2008

1-10-08: Canadiens 5, Bruins 2

The Bruins don’t suck.

Objectively, I mean. Of course, as a partisan of the Habs, I’d happily assert that the Bruins suck every day of the week and twice on Sundays, but if one stands back and looks at the NHL as a whole, they actually don’t. Third in the division and seventh in the conference, they sat only four points behind us in the standings- and if they’d won this game, it would have been only two. They’re better, objectively, than quite a lot of the opposition that has defeated the Canadiens with ease this season. But it’s difficult for me to remember that, because every time I see them, they look like the most accursed and misfortunate hockey team crawling the earth in this age.

1. The terrifying thing about it, though, is that if this game proves anything it’s that the Habs don’t even have to play all that well to win against Boston. Sure, the Canadiens had more shots, but they didn’t have better chances. Kovalev’s power play goal was clever and well-timed, and Dandenault’s second was off a cute little rush, but other than that, the Habs’ scoring was mostly good bounces and good luck on low-percentage efforts that in most games wouldn’t lead to much of anything. But it doesn’t seem to matter against Boston. Whether our place or theirs, whatever kind of streaks or slumps are going on otherwise, when these two teams meet this season, the Mandate of Heaven rests with us and the goals will come no matter how inexpertly sought.

2. So I understand, of course, why the Bruins get pissed off. Let’s face it, it’s horrifically demoralizing to constantly and seemingly inevitably lose to one of the teams it would be most advantageous to you to win against, even more so when you’re doing it because your best-S%-in-the-League goalie is suddenly letting in half-hearted backhanders from marginal fourth-line-part-time-defensemen and deflecting pucks in instead of out. However, the standard Bruins response to this is to get all thuggy, and this time it almost looked like it would work- the Habs first goals were luck more than skill, and they carried their brief three goal lead with minimal momentum. Possibly they could have been knocked off what little intensity they had initially by enough brutality. Possibly. But not actually.

3. Still, it is times like this that one realizes the extent to which Komisarek has gone from being a young defenseman with potential to being an indispensable part of the team. Not only has his sense of positioning and overall hockey-IQ improved rapidly over the past two seasons, not only is he getting with-the-puck abilities more comparable to his already excellent without-the-puck talents, but on a team more tough-minded than tough-bodied, his size and durability have become a necessary bulwark. Although he is, in all honesty, infinitely more inclined to express displeasure with a torrent of invective rather than, uh, enraged fist-pummeling, his invulnerability to pretty much any attempts at physical intimidation is itself heartening. Whether or not getting smacked around would ever make the Habs lose- which I’m not sure is possible anyway- it’s still good to have some evidence that we’re not entirely the fragile, nerdy kid whose only defense against bullying is a good pair of legs.

4. While I am quite swollen with vaguely patronizing pride at Dandenault getting a rare two-goal night, you have to be annoyed that it feeds the whole concept of benching as a motivational tool, which- frankly- Carbonneau has always been a little overly fond of. Ain’t no Hab with an impressive streak of games-played going to get out of this season with it intact- if, indeed, any have made it this far. But still, for a guy whose been on the cusp of unceremonious demotion on and off all season, Mathieu has shown some very impressive tenacity when needed to keep himself in the lineup. Let’s all give him a round of applause.

5. In other news: Ovechkin gets 13 years at 124 million. The word ‘in-fucking-sane’ has just taken its last dry, rattling breath and collapsed into meaninglessness. I don’t care what happens next, I don’t care if the Predators literally steal Roberto Luongo and replace him in Vancouver with a clever dummy constructed of Tootsie Rolls and extremely lanky marshmallows and hold him captive by keeping him shackled to a net 24 hours a day, feeding him exclusively with crackers tossed by fans during intermissions, I will not be surprised by anything that happens in the hockey world ever again.

There is, of course, a lot more that needs to be said- I’ve been away a while and missed a lot, and there must be discussion of Kovalev, and Lapierre, and Price, and Ryder, and Kostitsyn al-Asghar. But that will have to wait a bit longer. It turns out there are (sometimes) things more important than hockey.


Yamp said...

Nice to have you back, E! :) I’ve been missing those post (the length of the following comment is proof!).

As I was watching the game yesterday, it felt to me that, if the Bruins had used half of the energy they used on smashing-our-guys-around on trying-to-score-a-goal, they might have won this one. In the second period, they in fact did just that, and for a while they indeed had us trembling a bit. That's when Handy-Dandy scored his first goal, and got the Bruins mad again, returning them to there smashing-our-guys-around frame of mind, which prevented the Bruins from tying the match.

I guess we could say that we were saved by our reputation. If the Bruins had played us like they play any other team, I'm pretty sure we would have had a harder time winning this one. The Bruins lack of discipline led to many power play, and 5 on 4 is the way the Habs play their best hockey.

I was especially thrilled to see Plekanec get that first goal right after been rough out by one of the Bruins. And the fact that it was Chara who put it in the net somehow made it ever so sweet. I know, I know, hockey awakens inside me that vengeful spirit... ;) Rationally, I know this should worry me, because you can’t count on luck to win every game, you need hard work and talent, but it still was an entertaining kick for yours truly.

As for Maxim’s goal, well, one could argue it was still luck, but I wouldn’t quite agree. Yes, it was lucky that Higgins’ shot made it’s way behind Thomas (it should have gone straight in the net), but the fact that Lapierre was there at that moment means that there was a Hab there ready to pounce on the puck if Thomas couldn’t immobilize it. That’s a good thing, because in many other game, when one of the guys finally manages to get the puck in front of the net, there’s nobody to hit it back again.

Gotta love that Kovy goal! Somehow you could feel just how Kovalev wanted to put it in the net this time, if only to make the Bruins deeply pay for the Koivu-pushing-around and hiting-on-Hamrlik part. Skill, patience, precision... Oh Kovy! Why didn’t you play like that last year!

As for Dandenault’s last two goal, well, the weak shot made it in the net and gave us our momentum back (breaking the Bruins’ at the same time). It wasn’t a mighty shot, and maybe it wouldn’t have made it in the net in any other game, but I would rather think that it could have. I mean, many times it’s the shot that seem easy and unthreatening that make it past the goalie. I don’t know if it’s because the adrenaline rush hasn’t kicked in yet for the goaler (the brain is not in danger-mode! ;)), or because the element of surprise is that much a key factor, but if a shot means a goal, then it’s fine by me.

Is second shot was a good one, but I might emphasize a bit on Streit beautiful pass (“streit” on Dandy’s stick, if you pardon the pun). Boy how I want Gainey to sign Mark Streit for a few years more!

E said...

hey yamp-

glad to be back. i pretty much agree with everything you said, i'd just like to clarify that i don't think lapierre's goal was luck in the sense of a freak bounce, but more luck in the sense of a fortunate occasion when the same thing he always does (invade the opposing goalie's personal space with considerable enthusiasm) payed off perfectly. let's face it, maxim's style is admirable in many ways, but at the nhl level it doesn't regularly get him on the scoresheet. his pouncing to do the cleanup is the sort of thing that, 9 times out of 10, makes no difference because the shot either has gone in anyway or the goalie already has it. this time, however, it worked- in their own way, garbage goals involve even more luck than the improbable-looking beauty plays.