Tuesday, January 29, 2008

1-29-08: Canadiens 4, Capitals 0

I have only two words for this game:

Fucking awesome.

Okay, I have more words than that.

1. Let’s call this one of the Habs’ best two-way efforts of the season. The Capitals offense is, as everybody knows, not short on ingenious scoring potential. Not always enough to win, as the standings clearly show, but generally more than enough to pick up a goal. Shutting it down completely is no trivial achievement. Furthermore, despite the score, I thought Johnson played a very solid game, but he was often left exposed by a sloppy defense. The Habs deserve a lot of credit for being opportunistic, but if they’d cashed all the opportunities the Capitals’ D gave them, the score would have been considerably more lopsided.

2. The way this is going, before his career is over, Plekanec is going to single-handedly transform the turtleneck hockey undershirt from ‘vaguely dorky’ to ‘incredibly sexy’. Killing a five-on-three late in the first, he intercepts the puck in the Habs end and bolts forward, catches Sergei Kostitsyn coming out of the penalty box, and tosses a perfect last-second pass to the kid who efficiently shoots it into the top of the net, just under the center of the crossbar. For 30 seconds, at least 20,000 people in that building would happily have agreed to have Tomas’ babies.

3. As an act of humility before the infinite wisdom of Bob Gainey and the mysterious ways of the Great Goaltending Spirit, I think everyone who ever spoke or typed the words ‘Huet should be traded’, or anything similar, at any point in the past six months, should donate $5 to the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation. Some unfortunate kid gets a better respirator, and we all get to feel a little bit less dirty about our lack of appreciation for Cristobal. You remember back when everybody was so dead certain that Carey Price had nothing left to learn, that he was totally ready to be an NHL goalie, that Huet would be totally redundant and useless by December? Ah, the naivete of the preseason. Whether or not he’s worth resigning remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that Huet is a key part of the Habs’ success this season and probably an absolute necessity for any chance of a deep playoff run. Under heavy pressure, when he’s most in his element, this guy makes stops that have absolutely no right to get made, ever, by anyone. Plus, he has possibly the sweetest, most amiable, most genuinely and disarmingly modest attitude of any professional athlete on this continent.

4. One of the distinctive improvements the Habs have made over the course of the season is in the realm of what one might euphemistically call ‘physical play.’ They’re now routinely doing more hitting and more shot-blocking than their opponents, often by very significant margins. But better yet, it’s increasingly distributed throughout the whole team- it’s not just Komisarek, Bouillon, and Begin (although they still do plenty of it), but everyone from Higgins to the Kostitsyns. This has to assuage people who were concerned that the loss of Rivet, Souray, and yeah, even Murray would mean a palpable decline in our ability to play tough. See, we’re not just a bunch of pussy Euros over here. We’re a bunch of thwacky, heavily bruised Euros. And Quebecois. And Americans. Suck it, pervasive Anglo-Canadian hockey racism.

5. Comments on us: Streit is, again, looking like the great unsung contributor of this season. While his goal in this game was only his 7th, and the suggestion that his point shot would replace Souray’s is, frankly, just as hilarious in retrospect as it was at the time, he’s been quietly accumulating assists at an impressive rate- 26 and counting. Kovalev gets smacked in the hand early on, possibly breaking his thumb, but plays through it, and manages a very un-pretty, un-Kovy last minute insurance goal. Then goes and plays macho for the reporters in the dressing room- he’s so cute when he’s happy. One of the appealing things about Higgins is that, even when he’s not scoring, he’s always good defensively. And finally, being the shamelessly partisan hussy that we are, we cannot go without mentioning when Koivu scores: … [ahem]. SAKU! SAKU! SAKU!

6. Comments on them: We are going to give that Erskine dude the benefit of the doubt and assume that the glass is a different height in Washington, because otherwise it’s awfully hard to justify two delay-of-game penalties in the same match. And #17 on the list of reasons we love Ovechkin: he’s the only person over the age of 12 who thinks neon skate laces are really cool.

Thursday is Capitals II: [subtitle pending]. Let’s hope it’s not The Revenge


Kaz said...

Suck it, indeed. And let that apply to anyone with any sort of predisposition to players of one country or another.

And along those lines, how about a shout out to the smaller Kostitsyn, taking out Semin with a nasty, open ice hip check. He got wrongfully nailed with a kneeing penalty; he clearly hit him with his hip.

He also got into some trouble in the Boston game for a similar hit. Chuck Kobasew also thinks it was kneeing, and goes after him. But Sergei didn't back down. I'm not one for fighting, but turtling doesn't sit right with me either. Gotta love that kid.

E said...

i wouldn't go so far as to condemn anyone with any sort of national preference. weirdly enough, i'm perfectly fine with irrational nationalism when it's expressed simply as that (i.e. the olympics). i don't get it, but it doesn't bother me. it's the claiming of particular character traits or play styles- good or bad- as the exclusive province of one country that i loathe.

and yeah, i'm developing some serious warm fuzzies for lil' kostitsyn. possibly because he still plays in a very junior-ish mode, which is sometimes a welcome break from the habs overall more conservative style. i haven't closely examined those hits, though, so i can't speak to their legality or not. i don't remember thinking they seemed egregiously wrong, but i've missed things before. give me a couple days, i'll get back to you...