Hockey, like most sports, derives much of its entertainment value from the underlying presumption that the result of any match is just; that the team that wins does so because they deserve to, because they actually played the game better. While there are always exceptions, most fans assume this kind of fairness unconsciously, to the point where they’ll assume that the losing team somehow fucked up even if they saw no actual fuck up, based solely on the principle that a loss must be the result of a deficiency. It is surprisingly difficult, then, to recognize that your team might be playing competently- even playing well, playing better than their opponent- and yet still, technically, losing. The Habs outplayed the Panthers for the vast majority of this game, and yet for that same vast majority, the score was 1-0
1. The interesting thing here is to contemplate that in most games where the result is perceived as ‘unfair’, the blame is usually placed on either the referees or the goaltenders. I understand why goalies are so freaking defensive about their rights and prerogative, because when other players exercise their skills far beyond the level of their teammates, it’s ‘carrying’ the team to a win, where as when goalies do so, it’s ‘stealing’ the game. Nobody ever talks about changing the rules to slow down Ovechkin or Heatley- their success is considered good for the League. Whereas goalies’ success is a problem, and changing the rules to make them play less effectively is considered a net benefit to the game. In a way, the League and a lot of fans put goalies in the position of being the enemies of good hockey- hell, I’d be touchy too. There’s a sense that it’s less fair when a team wins on the strength of its goaltending than based on any other quality. If the Habs had lost this, I’d be bitching endlessly about Vokoun and how he ruined our terrific effort and gave
2. Speaking of goalies, this was also the best game in a long time for Price. On the whole I’d say Vokoun faced the tougher shots, but the Habs’ baby goalie was in excellent form and played beautifully through some really tough PKs. So let the bickering resume: who’s the real number one in Montreal?
[Answer: Huet. But thanks for playing!]
3. Also a real resurgence for Koivu, who got assists on both goals and five shots, including at least three really excellent chances, and Higgins, who in spite of his goal still must be rocking one of the lowest shooting percentages in the League. I’m concerned, however, that this doesn’t represent an improvement for their line, (this time with
4. I know this is an odd thing to say about the guy who got the game winner, but Kovalev is looking really off to me these past few games. He’s gone back to playing the perimeter a lot and isn’t being very tenacious about pursing plays. Plekanec and Kostitsyn are still buzzing around industriously and getting their share of opportunities, but Kovy seems to have slowed down. But thank god he’s still got that high-right-from-the-left-circle shot- it’s goalie kryptonite, I swear at least half his goals have been scored with it.
5. Other notes: Excellent game for Markov. Uneven one for Lapierre- more mistakes, more chances, but hell, I’d rather notice him than not. O’Byrne is a surprisingly pretty skater, for being such an otherwise ponderous creature. I don’t really know who he is, but ‘Kamil Krepps’ has definitely earned a spot on my mental team comprised of players with the coolest names. Finally, when McGeough makes the gesture for ‘hooking’, it looks like he’s miming seppuku. Is there a two-minute minor for ritual suicide? Should there be? Discuss.
I liked this game. True, like many Panthers games, it was low scoring and dull for long stretches, but that’s a small price to pay to have my faith in the ultimate fairness of the sport renewed. The hockey gods still smile on hard work; good chances do eventually turn into scoring, which turns into winning. At least, most of the time.
[By the way, I haven’t said anything about Richard Zednik and his horrible accident thus far- such will be forthcoming. But since this is a Panthers recap, I’d just like to take a second to extend my sympathies to him, his family, and his teammates, and to wish him a full recovery.]