Thursday, April 24, 2008

4-24-08: Canadiens 4, Flyers 3

It’s peculiar how games develop different characters. Some are like long slogs through peat bogs at midnight, where anybody getting any kind of goal feels like an unrepeatable miracle, and you just know that that one fluky 2nd period deflection is going to be the end of it. Others, however, are so light and loose that teams pick up points like snatching feathers out of the air, and the only thing that decides winner and loser is the clock- who happens to have snatched more when the time runs out. This was one of the latter. As tense as it was at moments, I (nor apparently many of the people watching with me) seemed to feel much doubt that the Habs would come back from their deficits, it was only a question of whether they’d do so in time. It didn’t feel like a playoff game. For half a second at the end of regulation I caught myself thinking, “Hey, at least we got the OT point…” Even if they’d lost, I don’t think there’d be reason to be overly anxious about their chances for the next game. Still, I called Habs-in-5 in my lame two-person playoff pool, so thanks Canadiens for doing your part to salvage my pride.

1. If I was a ninja, I would use my powers to cleverly sneak into the Habs dressing room before the next game, stand in the doorway, and shriek “THE REBOUNDS!!!!! GET THE FUCKING REBOUNDS!!!!!” Because although I love Pleks and Kovy and the Kostitsyn boys (see #2), I think nothing hurt ahbabi so much in the series against Boston, or in the game tonight, as the fact that they rarely have anyone in position to get the second chance when the puck takes a juicy bounce off the opposing goalie. The Smolinski line is good at that, as evidenced by Kostopolous’s overtime game-winner tonight (on not just a rebound but a 2nd rebound), and the Koivu line is increasingly on top of it, but it breaks my heart to see a puck go merrily hopping through the slot for eons before being picked up by some belated Flyer and chipped out of the zone.

2. Fath Ali Shah Qajar had 158 wives and 260 children. It’s too bad that these days the world is so much more hostile to mass polygyny, because I want the Kostitsyn boys to spend their retirement on a comfortable ranch in Russia churning out babies with nubile Slavic beauties. Even figuring that some of them might go into figure skating or gymnastics or archery or ballet, there’d still be more than enough Kostitsyns left for every NHL team to have a couple, thereby ushering in the new golden age of hockey. Even the girls would be at least good enough for Phoenix or some such. As it is, I guess we’re just going to have to pin our hopes on puckbunnies with lax attitudes towards contraception.

3. We in Montreal didn’t see much of Biron this season, for some reason the Flyers played Nittymaki against us often. So Martin is kind of a mystery to me- virtually all of my memories are of him being the NHL’s Most Beloved Backup in Buffalo. Even now, I’m inclined to think he got into goaltending just so he could wear a mask and give people spooky glares through it. Thomas was more intimidating, and that’s saying a lot, because Thomas looks like a panda bear on sedatives. (Not, by the way, that I’m saying Thomas is a bad goalie. He’s a terrific goalie and I have vast respect for him. In fact, I think he probably follows the Brodeur school of using a chubby, cuddly exterior to conceal his malevolent inner nature.) Anyway, the point is that based on a totally cursory initial impression, I don’t get the ‘he’s going to slaughter us’ vibe off of Biron. Although he is terrifically sharp on breakaways.

4. Briere, on the other hand, I thought might slaughter us. But based on the overall quantity of booing per shift, he wasn’t much of a presence tonight. Good omen.

5. Here’s a question for speculation: given that Carbonneau usually doesn’t like to change a winning lineup, what are the chances that all of Brisebois, Dandenault, Streit, and Lapierre play in the next game? Breezer is probably hoping that everyone will forget that he opened the scoring by deflecting a puck past Price, but it was an all-around unimpressive (look how polite I am) game for him and Hamrlik’s value is compromised if he has to be watching his partner’s ass all the time. And if part of Carbo’s strategy is to roll four scoring lines, it doesn’t look like the current Lapierre line is going to help with that. Streit is obviously important for the power play, and can be an offensive force at even strength, but Lapierre has been more theoretically good than actually good thus far, and Dandenault seems to be a break-even proposition at best. If the coaching plan is really to press the attack as much as possible, the obvious question is whether Ryder gets another go. It’s unlikely, but I don’t think that line could have been much worse, so a little tweaking might not go amiss.

6. Certain of my Oiler-oriented readers will be pleased to know that Thoresen (Go Norway! Go Intact Testes!) and Smith acquitted themselves well. They may be more ambivalent about Lupul, who did score, in spite of not acquitting himself particularly well. Between all the ex-Sabres, ex-Oilers, and ex-Predators, Philly still seems to me like a Frankenstein monster cobbled together from the discarded limbs of other teams. Damn you Gainey, you’ve made me uncomfortable with rosters built through trading and free agency.

5/16. Again the Habs are heavily favored to win the series, again it might prove more difficult than anticipated. We’re going to find out what the team really learned from the ups and downs of the long first round, although it’s all the more interesting because Philly went through a very similar initiation. The Flyers don’t have the vengeful spirit of Claude Julien hovering over them with a shift chart planned out like a train timetable (although there is something about their coach suggestive of an accountant with a poorly concealed cocaine problem), so I doubt they’ll be quite as adept at shutting us down, but that’s probably not the only strategy that could beat us. The games could be heart attacks on ice, but I have no idea whether that’ll translate into roughly even wins and losses. Still, better these guys than the Rangers.

[A note to all the readers who left concerned comments: shukran jazeelan, I’m very touched and grateful for the encouragement. I realize that my reaction to the riots was petulant and somewhat naïve, but I appreciate that y’all seem to understand where it came from. A further explanation will follow. In the meantime, I have decided to keep doing this as far as the season lasts. After that… well, that’s going to be complicated.]


tapeleg said...

Point # 2: Wow. Just...Wow.

Faraz said...

Glad to have you back. :)

DarkoV said...

Back in the zone!

Your comment (accountant with a poorly concealed cocaine problem") about Coach John Stephens of the Phlyers is dead on.

Sports talk radio is clogged with callers' complaints as to Mr. Stephens' overly calm state of mind. But, just as with their football coach, Mr. Andy Reid, Philly deserves an overly cool head coach for their teams as it drives the overly emotional Philly fans rapidly mad. I wish I could say that Philly fans wear their emotions on their sleeves, but the sleeves are too chewed up to support any such ephemera.

Jeff J said...

they rarely have anyone in position to get the second chance when the puck takes a juicy bounce off the opposing goalie.

Some players are like the playboy sport hunters in magazines or on TV, the sort who bring purebred dogs along to scatter fowl into the air so the hunter can feel like he's giving the animal a sporting chance before shooting. That's Kovalev, who has never in his 35 years scored on a rebound. Given a wide open net, he'll give the netminder a sporting chance - wait for him to get back into position - before selecting the ideal placement of his shot, compensating for wind speed and firing true. Anything less would be unsportsmanlike.

Then you have the hunters I know. A tame (read: powerfully stupid) grouse basking in the sun on a stump three feet away? Fair game. BAM! Dinner. That's Kostopoulos and the Boston Bruins. It must also be noted that, unlike the glamorous sporting hunter, these guys also skin and clean their prey, cook it and clean up afterward.

Kaz said...

Good to have you back, e! Not sure about that ominous sounding last note though.

I'm not sure what Carbo's thinking, but I'd sit Breezer and Dandenault. I think O'Byrne deserves a shot and wasn't that bad in his lone appearances. Brisebois is valuable as 2nd pp qb, but beyond that I'm not sure. The goal he tipped in was a good play in that he tried to take away the passing lane. But the proper way to play a two-on-one is to get in the passing lane yourself. He was just several steps slow on that play.

And on the Flyers' second goal, he couldn't handle the Flyers' 4th line size and strength, allowing the puck to squirt from behind the net to out front. To be fair, on that play Lapierre and other bore some responsibility too.

And as for Dandenault, sure he brings energy on the forecheck and a right handed shot. But what of Ryder? Almost the same, but with better defense and the tantalizing potential for some goals. Sure he ain't scoring, but I'm not willing to write him off quite yet. I just think he deserves a chance every once in a while.

But maybe my biggest beef was with Komisarek's interference penalty at the end of the 2nd. What was he thinking? Everyone knew the game was being tightly called from the first hooking call, and that was clear cut interference. I feel slight shame in writing this though, for I do love the big lad. Future captain material.

Anonymous said...

How come there is no talk of the two goals that were handed to Montreal? Even the reaction of the team after the puck went in told you it was hit with a high stick. The replays even showed without a doubt that it was a high stick. Then the penalty call on Richards at the end of the game. Come on, ask anyone that knows the sport. It doesn't matter if your a Montreal or Philadelphia fan. The refs and the war room have already decided who they want to win the series.

Julian said...

Yes, they want the Canadian team which will produce absolutely no US TV ratings over the major American city. That's exactly it, just like they loved having Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa in the last three finals. Because they like low ratings, it gives them such a healthy image.

E said...

tapeleg- yeah. although he did live in a time and place where unibrows and mustaches were considered attractive features in a woman, so don't get to envying him too much.

faraz- thanks!

darkov- they should get tortarella! perfect fit.

jeff- well, kovalev's apparently-controversial swat-out-of-midair goal was sort of a rebound, but we've known for a while that penalty killing kovy is different from even strength kovy. like different varieties of barbie doll. still, i think that those habs who aren't kovalev would do well to be a little more unsporting. this time of year ain't about fairness, it's about survival, dammit.

kaz- you really think ryder is that good defensively? it often looks to me like his defense is a streaky as has offense- some shifts he'll be very smart about it, other times he's positively lumpen. i think the question is whether it's possible for him to score goals without a top playmaker setting him up- could he spark some offense with lapierre and streit? or would he just be lost? as far as komi goes, i sometimes think he's taken the complaints about the habs' lack of toughness too much to heart, and overcompensates by playing closer to the edge than his natural disposition. or he's just kinda boneheaded sometimes.

anonymous- i don't believe in ref/league conspiracy theories. period. kovy's goal was close but still legit, and any discussion of the fairness or unfairness of penalty calls is a debate that can go on forever. in the end, it was anyone's game in ot, and we scored first. good win.

julian- hey, maybe we can alienate american audiences even more by playing up the whole french-speaking thing. french is, after all, the language of letting the terrorists win. on the other hand, it's a well-known fact that we have the sexiest uniform in professional sports, so maybe american channel-flippers will be entranced into watching.

Jaybird said...

E- Great to read your beautiful mind again! Crybaby anonymous doesn't remember obviously that Joffrey Lupus kicked in a goal that also counted (and should have) and also saying referees are on Montreal's side is joke to anyone who has watched our team the last decade. I'd really love (putting this politely as possible) to see young O'Byrne getting playoff experience over Brisebois tipping pucks in the wrong net which has happened yearly since I've been 13 years old.

Doogie said...

I'm curious what else Anonymous would consider a near-knee-on-knee collision to be called. Perhaps clipping? Either way, it's an obvious penalty. There was no shoulder contact.

Besides, if the NHL was into rigging games, why did Tom Poti get whistled for a cheaper tripping call in Game 7 OT last round? Live by the "weak" penalty, die by the "weak" penalty.