There’s something deeply unsexy about hard work. The standard hockey value system, of course, places great emphasis on hard work: a guy who ‘shows up’ every shift, no matter how incompetent, tends to get more warm fuzzies from both fans and media than a great talent who displays inconsistent effort. Alex Kovalev is admired, but Steve Begin is loved. The thing is, though, that a game like this- 50 minutes of the 2007-2008 Habs’ ‘good game’ of industrious, single-minded determination- still feels like it’s missing something. It’s a win that doesn’t feel like a win, exactly. There is little thrill of triumph, only the more subtle satisfaction of a job well done.
1. Nevertheless, there are moments of beauty in every game, two in particular (for the Habs) in this one. The first was Plekanec’s first goal, wherein he took what seemed like a very ordinary, low-percentage long range shot and transformed it into an ingenious- and successful- scoring opportunity by the clever use of a fake-out and the passing screen of an opposition defenseman. This is why we have so much faith in the boy. The second was a classic Huet save-our-ass-on-a-bad-change play, where he slid cross-crease with perfect timing to frustrate an otherwise dangerous breakaway from Comrie. Not the most elegant motion known to man, but any action that prevents one’s team from getting bitch-slapped by a pretty goal from one of hockey’s most notorious tools- well, those actions radiate an inner beauty that transcends external form.
2. You know what else is beautiful? Linesmen with glaucoma. Because Markov was about three miles offsides on the short-handed rush just prior to the 2nd Plekanec goal, but it wasn’t called. To all the Isles fans out there, I’d just like to say: HA! The NHL clearly loves us more than you.
3. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be a Habs game without the now-traditional Penultimate Ten Minutes of Suckage. In spite of being (now) one of the highest-scoring teams in the League, I’m betting that the Habs GF/GA ratio for the final 10 of any game- maybe for 3rd periods in general- is one of the worst in the League. But I haven’t run the numbers yet. Stay tuned.
4. Other notes: Kovalev gets his 20th of the year, and I suppose that means I finally need to stop being a pussy and admit it- I was wrong, he’s an asset to the team. Mea maxima culpa, Kovy fans. And while I’m making embarrassing admissions, I rather like Kostopolous. Sure, he’s just a 4th liner, but he’s kind of the quintessential 4th liner- hardworking, energetic, violent, and properly docile. But I like the way that, even though he can’t score, he can fake like he’s going to just enough to make the opposition stop thinking about our net and start worrying about theirs a little. Sometimes, I masochistically kind of wish that Carbonneau would put Koivu, Higgins, and Ryder back together on a line- you'd be able to see their collective desperation from orbit. Also, Latendresse makes an egregious misplay in front of a wide-open net that should lose him that slot on the PP for a couple of games, although I suppose we could just hope that the shame alone is enough to assure that he doesn’t let it happen again. RDS has the clip, Gui, and they’re not afraid to use it. Finally, is there anything scarier than Huet holding the puck behind the net? I can answer that question: NO. Not even zombies, and I’m really scared of zombies.
5. In other news:
This was a January sort of win, for the best kind of January you can have in hockey, a warm, soothing, stable kind of victory that barely even merits the term. It’s not the kind of thing that makes you think these Habs are the best team in the League, but it does make you believe that they have what it takes to tough out the day-to-day grind of the midseason doldrums in good form. Insha’allah.