Sunday, October 25, 2009

WOW!

Ladies and gentlemen, we've got ourselves a hockey team. I had the great pleasure of attending last night's beauty of a game between the Habs and the Rangers, and I learned a few things about this edition of the Canadiens.

First of all, they don't quit. Down two goals twice to a pretty good Rangers team, it would have been understandable if the boys had been discouraged and let up long enough to allow that back-breaking goal that would have put them in a three-goal hole. Last year they would have done exactly that, without a doubt. This season's different though. They didn't give in to self pity, and kept doggedly pushing back at the Ranger defence until it cracked and the Habs were back in it. It won't happen like that every night, but if a team works with as much determination and self-confidence as the Canadiens did in that game, it will win more often than it loses.

I learned the team is able to fix its mistakes mid-game in a way it couldn't last year. After a disorganized, sloppy first period with big problems clearing their zone and some pretty awful defensive gaffes, they came out and played a much quicker, tighter second period and a solid, shut-down third. The ability to do that shows intelligence and a reluctance to give into panic. It's also a sign of good coaching.

I also saw a team with an honest-to-goodness gamebreaker in Mike Cammalleri. The man is tiny in stature, but boy, he can change the direction of a game when he puts his mind to it. How long has it been since the Canadiens had a guy like that? Koivu tried like hell, but he wasn't the dominant offensive force Cammalleri can be. Kovalev had the talent but rarely ever turned it on and took the game over like that. When Cammalleri took the puck in OT and beat the four Rangers on the ice by himself, stickhandled it off the boards and then fired that lazer over Lundqvist, he showed us something we've needed to see for a long time. The Habs have a star again.

And I saw a group that's out there to back each other up. When Halak gave up the fourth goal last night...the one that could have been the killing blow...after the team had clawed back to within one, Hal Gill skated back and had a word with Halak and gave him a little tap on the pads. Halak didn't allow another goal after that. And the players were talking to each other, on the bench and on the ice. There's a lot of positive energy and good communication happening with this group. They seem to honestly like each other.

There are good things happening with the Canadiens after ten games. This is not to say, by any stretch, that they're out of the woods yet. They're still playing with a defence that's very suspect at times with the absence of Andrei Markov. Gorges, Mara and Hamrlik are playing their hearts out and although Spacek and Gill didn't have their best games last night, they're trying hard. Bergeron is either still very rusty, or the stories about his wretched own-zone play are all true. (But wow! His point shot is Souray-esque.) There are going to be nights when that D can't hold the fort against a dominant offence and the Habs will get killed. There will be games when Cammalleri gets stifled and nobody else is able to put the team on his back like that.

But after last night, I have hope that the bad nights, and there will be bad nights, won't outnumber the good. I have hope the players will be able to keep their heads above water until Markov returns, which will mean adding a number-one defenceman to a team that's already been baptized by fire and learned to stand on its own. And best of all, I have hope this team will be fun to watch again. Last night was dramatic, scary, exciting and, overall, just a cracking good time. When I left the Bell Centre, I was part of a thrilled crowd, every one of whom felt they got their money's worth. There's nothing as much fun as a winning Habs team, and now I remember why.

6 comments:

Naila J. said...

I saw the Gill-Halak pads tap too!

It was a great moment :)

DB said...

A few comments on last night's big win.

Cammalleri's OT goal was Rocket-like; at least I think it was based on years of listening to my father. He always said he didn't understand why players didn't imitate The Rocket by cutting into the middle, getting the goalie moving and shooting where the goalie had just been. Maybe the old man was onto something cause it sure worked for Cammalleri last night (I think OV does it too).

We'll have to start calling Bergeron "Brain-cramp Bergeron" if he keeps making those passes.

Chipchura looks like he is winning a regular spot in the line-up. His stick-handling, hockey sense and forechecking are much better than I remember. He seems much more relaxed than he did in prior seasons - could that be because of the coach?

Since you work at the CBC do you think you could get them to broadcast the sounds of the game (crowd, pucks, skates, whistles, but no announcers) as a Secondary Audio Program (SAP on your remote). That way I wouldn't have to listen to Bob Cole (yeah I know I could subscribe to RDS).

Good to have you back.

Ted said...

Hi JT,

Good post and the next time someone wonders why Gill is on the team you may want to point that little piece of gold out. Is he slow - well I wouldn't know because he'd be faster than me.

I like him - only because everyone on the team seems to like him as well. He's got one of the A's. That just doesn't happen.

I love this team and already feel like I'm getting my money's worth.

By the way - I thought you would start the Bob and Sergei conversation off with Sergei saying - For why you kick my dog and call him Phuckov. It was a classic

GK said...

I'd rather watch an exciting team that loses 6-5 than one that grinds out a 1-0.

Re bench chat: RDS caught two Habs talking on the bench, and I didn't recognize one of them at first because he was smiling. It turned out to be A.K. Geez, I'd never seen that before.

Howard said...

I was at the game with my daughter who has become an avowed Cammalleri fan! We both said at the beginning of OT that he would score the winner. How exhilirating to see him fly down the wing and blow the shot by Lundqvist. Haven't seen that since...well...a guy named the Flower used to patrol the wing!
Next time your in town we'll have to hoist a pint!

Leila said...

J.T,

Yes, that game was one huge wow!

I was surprised by the subdued goal celebrations. Was it my imagination or did they tone it down? Cammalleri seemed almost nonchalant after his goals. He seems to be just as calm during the media scrums.

I don't mind because those 'over the top' Ovechkin events anger me. I prefer those quieter, confident ones that seem to say 'plenty more where that came from.