There’s only one real story that came out of this game, and it’s a story about Carey Price. I’m not going to tell it now. Here’s everything else:
1. One of the best things about hockey is the incredibly fine line between beautiful and ugly, skill and luck, elegance and clumsiness. For a case in point, watch Andrei Kostitsyn’s goal. I’m not going to explain it. Just watch.
2. I get the feeling that, during his tenure in the OHL, Sergei Kostitsyn heard rather a lot regarding the Canadian stereotype of Russian hockey players as soft, dispassionate individualists. I also get the feeling he took it a little bit personally. Because the kid is that most irritating but fascinating of combinations: skilled, thwacky, and extremely irritable. He gets into opponents’ personal space, in ways both licit and dubious, and seems to not just invite but actively pursue extracurricular physical confrontations. What I’m not sure of is how intentional it is. Does he have a little bit of a deliberate agitator streak and likes to stir shit up? Or is it just a short temper? Either way, it makes his play-style both more unique and more risky. After taking two almost immediate back-to-back minors at the end of the 2nd, one hopes he might start thinking a bit about the advantages of self-discipline. Then again, he didn’t seem to learn anything from getting ignominiously beat down by Wade Redden a couple of games ago, so perhaps the boy is a slow learner.
3. On the other hand, this was the sort of game where both teams collected penalties like Boy Scout badges. What’s one grouchy rookie more or less when you have your top defensive pairing taking two nearly simultaneous penalties, thereby forcing a heart-stopping 1:53 of 5-on-3 kill without recourse to two of your best potential killers? In that time period, Price made eight saves, and coincidentally Carbonneau stoically suffered eight minor heart attacks.
4. Here’s a chicken-or-the-egg question: are we just running into a lot of hot goalies lately, or are our scoring chances just so low-quality that they make ordinary goalies look hot and hot goalies look supernatural? (Yes, I know, the Habs didn’t get hardly any shots in the 3rd, I’m talking about the first two periods).
5. After Kovalev’s uncharacteristically weak performance against the Panthers, news came out that he’d hurt his ankle early in that game. There was speculation that he wouldn’t play tonight, but he did. I’m tempted to say, however, that maybe he shouldn’t have, or should have played much reduced minutes. Although he did get an assist on the game’s only goal, on several shifts (especially during the game’s rare moments of even-strength) he seemed to be a drag on his linemates. I understand that there’s a big ethic in hockey of playing through pain, but sometimes, when you see someone so noticeably struggling, it’s tempting to say they really should just take a night or two off. You could, of course, argue that a half-functional Kovalev is still better than a fully functional Ryder, Brisebois, or Begin (the healthy scratches), but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. Even if it is, though, he certainly didn’t need to play over 20 minutes- there’s got to be some sort of balance between riding your ‘hottest’ players and conserving your assets.
6. Not to devalue the Habs’ win, but Philly looked like a team on a 6-game losing streak- slow, uncoordinated, surly, with no idea how to score short of throwing their virtually insensate bodies into the net. Hey, it almost worked, except for the part where it doesn’t count. Whacking a goalie around can be part of scoring, but is not, in-itself, a goal. I know, I know, goaltenders are big and puffy and colorful, and it’s easy to get confused when you’re addled by two weeks of losing, but they’re not piñatas (although I hear if you score more than 10 goals on Conklin, he’ll explode and rain Gummi Worms all over the audience). However, I would strongly suggest that whoever gets the start in nets for the Habs tomorrow remembers and exercises his self-defense prerogatives. If the Flyers have any pride whatsoever, they’ll come out angry.