Tuesday, March 04, 2008

3-3-08: Sharks 6, Canadiens 4

It was close. For the most part, the two teams alternated goals, and while Montreal never had the lead, they kept themselves in the game. They played tenaciously. Tenacious is good. We can respect tenacity. But personally, I think this game wasn’t so lopsided that they should be happy just to have hung in there like the orange tabby kitten on the inspirational poster that someone will doubtless be buying for Price tomorrow morning. They can do better.

1. With the Habs rocking one of the best goals-per-game averages in the League, it seems (insha’allah) like the days of worrying about scoring are behind us, but I fear that the days of worrying about defense will never end. Granted, Price was shaky and that can often be a recipe for over-anxious, scrambling D, since (I suspect, anyway) playing positional defense relies rather heavily on trusting your goalie to be solid on certain ‘easy’ shots. When the Canadiens are nervous about their goaltending, they tend to crowd the net and the slot as if they’re one second away from linking arms to try to form a human wall, which is sometimes effective but definitely fucks up the transition to offense. There’s been a lot less of that in recent games, in fact I don’t think I’ve seen it happen regularly in a game the past two months or so, but once upon a time it was routine for them and certainly made an encore appearance here.

2. And let’s face it, Price was not great here. I’m inclined to cut him a little bit of slack because he was blatantly interfered with on 2 of the first 3 goals he let in, once by the Sharks and once by his own team. He lost his famous cool, and apparently he’s not (yet) one of those goalies who can translate anger into a more effective performance. Rather, he got progressively wobblier as the game progressed, and by the end even his much-lauded puckhandling had turned into risky, desperate turnovers. But this is what you get when you put a baby goalie in the unquestioned #1 slot- a certain lack of poise is going to break through from time to time. Even if he is mature beyond his years, he’d have to be a good decade ahead of himself to match the professionalism of a veteran. The key thing is going to be how he responds to this. In other words, we reserve judgment for now. Thursday, however, we’ll judge the hell out of him.

3. Speaking of goalie interference, this game was also horrifically officiated. Possibly because apparently Zdeno Chara’s larger brother was reffing (we now assume that anyone in the hockey world who is unaccountably large is either related to or cloned from Chara). He was probably angry about the Capitals blowing out the Bruins earlier in the evening, and of course Big Brother Chara has no love for Montreal to begin with. But still, even if I could ascribe all the missed interference and roughing and suchlike calls to standard NHL inconsistency, missing a blatant too-many-men incident is just plain lazy.

4. I’m assuming the only reason Smolinksi is still in the lineup every night is faceoffs, because… because I miss B├ęgin… [sniffle]...

5. The Sharks PK is a thing of beauty. They didn’t just kill our advantages, they assassinated them. Like ninjas. Huge, hulking, turquoise ninjas.

6. But turquoise is still the least hockey-ish color in the universe, and I don’t think the Sharks will redeem it even with a hundred years of perennial quality play. Hell, even pink is more hockey-ish than turquoise, being the color of ice smeared with blood.

7. I hope Campbell enjoys his new team and the shiny contract he will doubtless get from them, because he’ll need some good memories to comfort him when he’s frozen naked with his spine bent 90° backwards in the icy river of Satan’s tears for all eternity.

8. Just kidding.

Dear Ahbabi: Let’s review: Western Conference 5, Habs 1. Come on guys, salvage a little pride here. You represent Montreal! How are we supposed to hold our heads up high if you get thwomped up and down the Pacific Division by a bunch of California- and worse, Arizona- teams? These dudes don’t have go around half the year mummified in dozens of layers of wool and down, and they only have to deal with maybe 3 reporters on the average night- doesn’t that piss you off? While you’re freezing your sorry asses off and getting your guts ripped out and strewn all over the call-in radio wasteland all season long, they’re sunning themselves in blissful obscurity. That’s just not fair. So why not take out your latent rage at the fundamental injustice of the universe on the Coyotes, hmm?


Anonymous said...

E, you are completely correct: playing good defense depends largely on your goalie making the easy saves. As a defenseman you are constantly charged with, given multiple scenarios at any given moment, conceding the easy shot.
The fundamental breakdown of an odd-man rush is to reduce it to a two-on-one. Once that's accomplished, the decision becomes "who has the worst chance of scoring?" Once you decide that, you cover the other dude a little more, and the goalie is charged with making the save on the shot you allow.
Also, I'm sure you've noticed that up to a point, defenders will allow a shot when covering a player one-on-one, as long as that shooter is outside the arc of "high probability". And, from my experience, when the goalie fails to make those saves, everyone clamps up, gets nervous, and tries to make that hand-linked wall you describe so eloquently.

Secondly, you may be more correct than you know. Tim Peel (Toronto, Ontario) and Chris Rooney (Boston, Massachusetts) refereed this game. And by all accounts, it was horribly officiated. Perhaps Mr. Rooney was indeed pissed off at the plight of his beloved Bruins (and I can tell you from my experience living there that those folks HATE the Habs). The fact that another Old Boy From Toronto was helping make the calls only strengthens the case.

In any case, I agree that the time to judge will be Thursday (if Price starts, and I hope he will). After all, Martin Brodeur is infamous for following bad performances with shutouts. We'll see if Price can rebound like a pro. Smolinski, on the other hand, just needs to go away.

Julian said...

Those new Sharks uniforms are about twelve levels of ugly. Worst in the NHL right now.

And their FSN broadcasters are also the most annoying guys I've ever heard. A broadcasting team should never refer to the home time by the first names, ever. Nevermind throughout the game. I don't think Drew Remenda was this bad when he was on HNIC. I even tried watching the game in french to get away from them, but the RDS feed was awful. They make Pierre Macguire's mancrush on Crosby seem cold and objective.

kazmmmooooo!!!!!! said...

kovalev fan, the dman's job on a two-on-one is to play the pass, allowing the goalie to concentrate on the puck carrier and not have to cheat. If you can cut off the pass, the guy with the puck has to shoot.

Price was indeed shaky, but Komisarek (twice) and Gorges allowed for some highlight reel goals. Still, the hallmark of a good goalie is to bail out your D, and he couldn't do it last night.

Begin has been sitting because of a sore groin. I'm hoping he gets back soon too. He and Lapierre make for a decent PK duo, and wreak all sorts of havoc.