Thank God for the small victories. Very, very small victories. Marginal, slimly achieved, skin-of-the-teeth, hanging-on-by-the-fingernails victories. These are the nights when one is truly grateful that it doesn’t matter in the standings- at least, not until the third tie-breaking principle- whether a victory is a blowout or a narrow steal.
1. The good part is that they won, against the only team ahead of them, minus one of their best defensemen, bringing them with in one fucking point of taking the top of the conference. Any preseaon prognosticator who declared that we would come in 12th or worse and hasn’t apologized yet is hereby banned from any and all postseason partying in
2. The Plekanec line is now crossing the line from ‘beautiful’ to ‘miraculous’, the first two goals being achieved from the three of them playing exclusively off each other. If you didn’t know already, this game would make you realize what makes this trio so lethal: their flexibility. Unlike a lot of offensive lines, which have a role division between playmakers and snipers, this line consists of three guys who are (now) equally comfortable doing both. They can each score individually, under their own power, but their all capable of setting each other up quickly and precisely, which makes it difficult for opposing defenders to predict them. It’s not just the raw skill that impresses, it’s the strategic ingenuity- all the more so because Plekanec and Kostitsyn al-Akbar are so relatively young, yet have the maturity now to not only predict and capitalize on Kovalev’s moves, but do their own equally impressive thing without his direct assistance.
3. Hamrlik apparently showed up with ‘flu-like symptoms’ today and was immediately quarantined (i.e. sent home) by Carbonneau. Playing without him, I realize, puts a lot more stress on Komisarek and Markov. It was obvious that the Senators realized that these two would be playing big minutes and that trying to throw them off was part of the game plan, hence the ubiquitous Chris Neil (who has never had cordial relations with Komi), shoving his grotesque visage up their asses every other shift. I do fear that, even sans Emery, his presence means the Sens will always be able to out-asshole us. Max, we need you now as never before.
4. Speaking of Lapierre, he got some extra time out of this because Koivu finally took that last crappy hooking penalty that Carbonneau just couldn’t tolerate anymore- the captain was benched for much of the third. I have to say, as much as I love Saku, this is ridiculous. I know, people explain it as an old-rules, pre-lockout play style, but it’s been three seasons now, and that just ain’t no kind of excuse anymore. Granted, some of the calls against him are bullshit, just as a high percentage of all hooking calls are bullshit, but he just needs to grow up and exercise some fucking self-control. The issue, of course, is that he almost always takes these penalties at ‘bad times’, meaning times when games are close, when the stress level is high, when paradoxically he’s trying his hardest. It might be understandable, but if we can’t count on him to play responsibly during high pressure moments… that’s a really big problem. This season Kovalev has gotten his act together and managed to repress those tendencies of his that formerly hurt the team. Koivu has to do the same, or even devotees like me are going to understand if Guy cuts his ice time permanently.
5. Other notes: S. Kostitsyn put in a really energetic offensive effort that just wasn’t quite matched by his linemates. Smolinski trio was uneven- took some lame penalties, but did some very solid defensive work in the tense final minutes. Huet got hassled a lot more than he usually does, but only seemed to get sharper for it- if anything, he gives up more goals when he’s gone too long without being pressured than when he’s pressured constantly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the guy is more awesome than gigantic carnivorous scarab beetles. And has a better glove hand.
With this match, the Canadiens have proven that it is certainly possible for them to beat the Senators. What they have not done is inspire the confidence that they could beat