Thursday, January 31, 2008

1-31-08: Capitals 5, Canadiens 4

Yesterday, Alexander Ovechkin returned to his apartment in DC. He went through the entryway papered entirely with 100-unit currency from every country in the world, past the multiscreen theater that replays endless loops of the best goals he’s scored in NHL 07, past the bedroom full of peacefully dozing concubines, to the enormous library where he keeps his extensive collection of early Christian mystical exegesis. Pushing aside the heavy burgundy velvet curtains, he caressed his burnished brass bust of Paisius Velishkovsky, feeling for the secret spot behind the ear. Finding it, he pressed the button, and the false shelf of illustrated apocrypha swung back, revealing an iron spiral staircase which he descended to his hidden lair deep beneath the city. There he knelt before the altar of the Hockey Gods, and with one arm swept the surface clean, knocking to the floor with one motion his assortment of large, drippy red-white-and-blue candles, and breaking the jar containing his first-generation Crosby homunculus, which skittered to the corner in terror. Then, taking a photo of Huet clipped from the newspapers and a large knife, he cut his palms and smeared blood over the heathen idols, and thereby vowed to avenge on the Canadiens every goal with which they had humiliated him in the previous day’s shutout.

1. There are things in hockey you can analyze, and there are things you can’t. Ovechkin can’t be analyzed. He can barely even be discussed. Because when he is on, he is a force in the purest sense. He’s a living incarnation of the id of every ambitious 16-year-old who’s ever played the game, a careening ball of perpetual motion and infinitely regenerated momentum. Containment is the best an opponent can do, but even that is pointless if it’s not complete. Tonight, the Habs stopped him 4 times out of 5, and that wasn’t enough- four goals, five points, and 24 of the most insane shifts I’ve ever seen. Say what you will about the other dramatic, statistically significant players in the game today, there’s still nobody more worth watching for sheer visceral pleasure. Or horror.

2. That said, I’m still proud of ahbabi on this one. The worst you can say, really, is that they came out unprepared for the level of physical aggression the Capitals brought, and that cost them. But this game definitely looked like it was going to be a hell of a lot worse than the score ended up- when OV got his second and the Habs went down 3-0, I thought that all that was left was for him to bend our entire team one by one over the Caps’ bench and… uh… you know. And since everything in hockey is about expectations, the fact that they cut mine down so low before coming back to get the OT point makes me quite happy with the overall result.

3. The Habs’ biggest problem in the future may be that Mama Kostitsyn didn’t have no more babies. For the first time, both brothers score on the same night, Sergei in a quick retaliation after the Capitals’ third, Andrei with literally half a second remaining in period 2, enough to bring the score to 3-2 and buoy their teammates for an intense finale. I don’t suppose there are any sisters? Cousins maybe?

4. And with Latendresse scoring the final two to take the game to OT, it was certainly a big night for the darari line, which I think illustrates one of the best aspects of the Habs’ current play: while the Plekanec line still generates most of the scoring, the other three all have shown enough offensive potential that they can exploit whoever gets the weakest match-ups. In the past few matches, we’ve seen multi-goal games from each trio, and it’s important for everybody’s confidence to know that nowadays, shutting down one or even two lines isn’t enough to shut down our offense completely. As to Latendresse himself, these were his 13th and 14th goals of the season, which puts him in a similar category to Higgins- guys who are among the Habs better scorers, but are subject to such high expectations that they often get more criticism than appreciation. However, Gui’s vague and often-inconsistent play style does make it kind of difficult to have faith in him, no matter how much one wants to. I still think he has a ton of potential, but- comparative to the rest of the Habs’ youth- the question of “potential to be what?” still seems largely unanswered.

Stealing a point from the designated avatar of the hockey gods is still an achievement, but I think the larger moral here is how close it was given the Habs’ very pathetic initial effort. If they’d begun the game prepared to match the Capitals’ intensity, if they hadn’t sat back for a period, Ovechkin might have had a three-goal, four-point night on a losing team. That’s something to remember next time an ‘easy’ opponent comes along.


Yamp said...

After the second period, I almost abandonned and turned off the TV. Almost. I was laying on my couch, dizzy from the flu, somewhat cold and bitter and thought : "I don't need more agony tonight". Then I felt some weird shame about being a cheap fan because I couldn't see a game through if it wasn't a victory, and so I stayed motionless, almost asleep, and waited for the third period, for what I felt would be like a long, long agonizing death... And then the Habs bounced back.

In the end, they didn't win, and it saddens me because I think they fought so hard and didn't let go, even if they had a miserable start, and they made it to O.T..

This was a defeat, but I still liked that game, because it gives me faith that this team REALLY wants to win, and will search for a way to win until the very end. These are NOT last years' Habs. Most players are the same, but their spirit is develloping nicely, every line seems to be able to kick in when the others are down. Sure, when ain't got no Ovechkin (anybody up for kidnapping and brainwashing? ;)) but our players are all nice players, and in the end, I think it is a safer bet then relying on a few key player to support your entire team.

Still, if we could have Ovechkin, I'd sure be jumpin' up and down right now! ;)

Kaz said...

Well said, Yamp. A big silver lining in that cloud of a loss. It used to be that you could count 'em out after digging a hole. But they did it here, and maybe more impressively against Brodeur in his house.

And Ovechkin was truly unreal. That goal between Streit's legs right to the top corner? I mean, who does that? And Kozlov ought to give his goal back to Ovechkin, cuz Ovechkin was just borrowing his stick at the time.

And let's not forget the hits. This boy ain't like Crosby -- pouting or feigning injury when he doesn't get a call. His is a physical game. Maybe only Lecavalier is on his level, in terms of a complete game.