Tuesday, April 15, 2008

4-15-08: Canadiens 1, Bruins 0

Is there anything more excruciating than a one-goal playoff game? One-goal regular season games are usually just dull, the kind of situation where you’re just as likely to get exasperated with your own team playing conservatively as with the opposition and scream for someone to just fucking open up a little. But now that it’s the playoffs, a full period of dump-in lead-protection is somehow the absolute height of drama. And there’s something poetic about it, isn’t it? You always hear that hypothetically a game might be decided on only one moment- one second of weakness or stupidity or distraction in 60 minutes of play- but it doesn’t really happen all that often. Now, of course, it does. The last game was decided on one bad change. This game was decided on one good screen. The rest of it is just tension and waiting.

1. Does this mean we’re not going to see any more of that really gorgeous Canadiens hockey anymore? Maybe it does. The guys who play pretty just aren’t getting the space to do their thing; these games belong to the guys who play steady. And if even the Bruins are able to deprive us of our style, then later opponents should be able to erase it even more easily. I suppose I should take comfort that we can win ugly, but I’m probably always going to feel a little sad that we can’t win with the sleek edge we used to.

2. Plenty of people said that Carey Price would be one of the keys to this series, and they were right- his superlative play and eerie calm have sustained us through a lot of rough periods. But I doubt many people had their money on Hamrlik and Kostopolous being the other big difference-makers for the Canadiens, yet these two have been- shift for shift- the most consistent players on the team. Gainey must be feeling terrifically vindicated right now.

3. Other performances: Plekanec is clearly putting in a lot more effort, particularly in terms of trying to hold his ground in the slot, but not many other Habs did so, and it showed in their inability to capitalize on Thomas’s big rebounds. Streit is still struggling; I don’t mind if the power play doesn’t score, but it absolutely should not be giving up that many shorthanded rushes. My frustration with Latendresse is not expressible in words, so just imagine a variety of inarticulate grunts and spluttered half-sentences, illustrated with dramatic arm gestures, centering on the word why?????? repeated over and over with increasing plaintiveness. O’Byrne, however, was quite useful- he’s playing the Bruins the way they play us, keeping them pinned and wriggling on the boards whenever he can.

4. We need Koivu. We need someone who can win faceoffs- Higgins is so bad that when he won one late in this game, Pierre and Yvon were almost as excited as they’d been for Brisebois’ goal- and more than that, we need someone with some hands who’s willing to battle to stay in front of the net. The 3rd line does this with some regularity, and as I said I think Pleks is trying, and S. Kostitsyn does when the mood strikes him, but by and large I think Price is getting tried a lot harder than Thomas, especially in terms of 2nd and 3rd chances. On the other hand, the Habs obviously weren’t trying to score during the final frame, so perhaps my perceptions are imbalanced. Anyway, the team is noticeably different without Saku’s tenacity in pressing the attack.

3/16, and back in Montreal Thursday. Bell Centre mojo vs. terror of elimination: which is stronger? Place your bets here.


Simonus said...

I don't completely disagree with your core contention, but Higgins did go 5-2 on faceoffs tonight.

E said...

you're right. i obviously just wasn't paying attention at the right times.

just goes to show how much nobody here should trust my observations (in case you needed more evidence of that). it's times like this when i really wish i didn't have a policy of never going back to cover up past idiocy in my posts.

Jaybird said...

Going back to cover up past idiocy is blasphemous! Never be ashamed of previous thoughts... I don't know how many drunk and dials or facebook messages I wish I could have taken back but in the long run it makes you stronger and more respected. I've watched and played hockey my whole life and I miss a million happenings in a game. There is just too much to process!

Jaybird said...

Ohhh one more thing Pierre et Yvon or any other broadcast team know nothing more about hockey than you or I...and most hockey fans. That is the beauty of the sport to me!

hambown said...

3-1 Habs. Kovalev with the winning goal on the powerplay, Hamrlik with an empty netter from the defensive end. Downtown Montreal is deafened by hooting & hollering for several hours. Next round opponents: Philly.