Sunday, February 17, 2008

2-17-08: Canadiens 5, Flyers 3

  1. The Flyers coaching staff needs to sit down and review some basic principles with their team: Fighting is not part of hockey. Fighting is an extracurricular activity which is explicitly sanctioned and regulated by the rules of hockey. The key word here is extracurricular. If you’re going to fight, you really want to make sure the clock has stopped, because otherwise you end up with three of your players trash-talking Gorges next to the Habs’ net while Bouillon gets the puck and a clean break on Niittymaki, leading to a goal literally two seconds before the end of the period. I’ve never believed that, in hockey, physical aggressiveness correlates with stupidity, but maybe in some cases… However, Frances has been on a hell of a run the past couple games, he certainly deserves to get on the scoresheet for all his troubles. Gorges gets the unofficial assist for sheer sneakiness, though. He’s like the Coyote of hockey players, best keep an eye on him.
  2. For once, the Habs actually protected a lead competently- like yesterday, their PKing was excellent, and they didn’t allow conservatism to turn into timidity. They did, however, give up a goal in the last 30 seconds, which I think was probably the result of getting mentally out of the game a bit prematurely, particularly on Price’s part, since it was the kind of thing he generally catches like the most inhumane kind of mousetrap. The dude who scored it was, apparently, one of Philly’s babies (side question: why do all our darari come up deferential and speedy at first, while all Flyers’ rookies come up heavy and seething with bloodlust?), and it was his first NHL goal. Congratulations, Cote-who-isn’t-our-Cote, you’ll now get to remember that moment of utter futility as one of the happiest of your life.
  3. Begin lays an egregiously dirty 1st period hit on Tolpeko, to which Smith takes very understandable umbrage. As I understand hockey-morality, this means everything is cool now, but personally, I wish Begin understood that half the fun of playing the Flyers is getting to indulge a feeling of self-righteous moral superiority. One so rarely gets that in hockey, Steve, don’t ruin it for the rest of us.
  4. I do like, however, that even though we seem to consistently outhit the Flyers (and, in fact, most of the teams we play), people still question the Canadiens’ physicality. I guess you’re not really tough until you’ve lost 10+ man-games to suspensions. But I’m not complaining. Thwacking, like every other hockey skill, is presumably more effective if your opponents aren’t expecting it. Hey, look at us, rest of the hockey world! We’ve got a bunch of Russians! We’re too full of existential ennui for body checking! Go ahead, go into that corner with your back turned, we’re all too busy pondering whether everyone on the team is equally complicit in Saku’s hooking penalty (can any one man really be held solely responsible for the hooking of another?), to squish you to shit.
  5. Except for Markov. He’s ornery these days. And Kostitsyn al-Asghar, he’s oversensitive to perceived slights and totally indifferent to punishment. And Kovalev, he’s actually rather big and rather brutal when it occurs to him to be so. So actually, maybe you should be a little careful of the Russians. But the Czechs, you’re totally safe from them, right? Right?
  6. I’m just ranting now.
  7. [Deep breath].
  8. Anyway.
  9. Ryder definitely made the best out of his chance to get back in the lineup, with classic quick-finish goal and several other interesting chances. Between him, Koivu, and Lapierre all scoring, it was an excellent game for the holy-shit-we-needed-to-get-a-break-eventually crowd. Especially Lapierre- after looking lost for a while, he's been getting his confidence (read: bitchiness) back of late, and plays better for it.
  10. I can handle crap reffing. Adjudicating a game on ice is about as difficult and imprecise of a job as you can have, and mistakes are to be expected. As long as no one can demonstrate to me, with actual evidence, a systemic bias in those mistakes, I’m more than willing to consider it one of those impersonal forces in life that screws all people equally. But slow reffing is unbearable. There comes a point when you don’t so much care what the call is, you just want them to stop talking and get on with things. This game had more unnecessary review and consultation than I’ve ever seen, and that’s in addition to more than the standard number of inexplicable calls against both sides. Who knows, maybe they were actually listening to Carbonneau’s ranting.

We were within three points of Ottawa, lost three games, slid back, and all Habistan panicked. Then we won three games, climbed up to tie Ottawa, and now all Habistan rejoices. Philadelphia went nuts with trades and UFAs and were declared ‘winners’ in the off-season, and they improved. We did virtually nothing dramatic and were declared ‘losers’, and we improved. Those 3 games were our worst losing streak of the season. Their worst streak is at 7 and counting. Buffalo surges. Detroit stumbles. The Penguins are riding into the playoffs in the absence of the sport’s best player, on the back of a goalie who I saw playing in Hamilton barely over two months ago- while two of the League’s top-ten scorers play for it’s 2nd worst team.

Nothing in this game makes any sense. The vicissitudes of the hockey season are sometimes cruel and sometimes kind. The only lesson I’m taking out of this weekend and it’s victories is the following: it ain’t over yet. There are 22 games yet to play, and trade deadline day is coming. Things look good now. But no one- not me, not you, not Bob Gainey or Gary Bettman, nor KOVYROCKS387 on the message boards- knows anything about where this will end up. After 60 games, everything is still as nearly wide open as it was at 0.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to mention that I surf quite a few hab blog websites and there is nothing that comes close in wit or intelligence to this site. Keep up the great work!

nckd said...

I agree. I don't care much one way or the other about the Habs, but this is one of the most interesting hockey blogs out there, and I read it more than the blogs about the team I actually root for.

Anonymous said...

Your blog should be recommended a must read for any Habs fan, or any hockey fan, who can appreciate beauty in the analytical dimension of the game. It is a joy to read.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

Delicious said...

Concur. This is the closest thing to Free Darko there is in the hockey world (I wonder what you'd do with photographs).

No love for Mike K. from Long Guyland? He likes to hit people too.

E said...

awwww, y'all are so sweet. although i'm suspicious that i'm the tangential beneficiary of a little top-of-the-standings giddiness here... will you still love me when (if! i mean if!) we're eliminated?

and delicious, i have more love for mikey k than this blog can contain. but it wasn't intended to be a comprehensive list of thwacky canadiens, merely an assertion that even less 'physical' players have a lot more aggression in them than they're generally given credit for.

Kaz said...

I wonder if Ryder plays tonight. His performance against the Flyers certainly warranted it. He was in on numerous chances, and it also helped that he got his first significant power play time in months. He played on the second unit with Koivu, lining up on the left side for a better shooting angle with his right handed shot. Almost half his minutes were on the PP, a perfect use for him since he's the only right handed offensive-minded forward we have (no, Smolinski doesn't count, as Carbo may have finally figured out).

Of course with everyone healthy again, who sits again so that Ryder can play?