Saturday, February 13, 2010

Aftermath: Heart and Soul

Well, you can say this about the Habs: if they make the playoffs and they're finally healthy, they have a chance to surprise someone. I thought it was over last night when the Flyers went up 3-0. The Canadiens were without Cammalleri, Kostitsyn, Pouliot and now Markov. The Flyers were in control and the chances of a comeback were somewhere between slim and none.

But this is a different Habs team than the one we watched bend over for Boston in last year's playoffs. The difference isn't only in the names on the sweaters, but in their grim determination to keep fighting, no matter what. I think this year there have only been a handful of games when it looked like they were completely out of it. On the vast majority of nights, they care. Sometimes they're not good enough to win, but other times the talent remaining in the lineup combined with the heart in the players gets them over the top.

As Dominic Moore said last night, against the Flyers they just ran out of time. There's little doubt that the Habs would have tied it up given a couple more minutes in that third period. They never quit and had the Flyers back on their heels. With any luck, they'll pick up right there again and beat them tonight.

I also hope PK Subban picks up right where he left off. The kid continually gives credit to his coaches in Hamilton and his teammates. About his own ability he only says quietly that he knows what he can do and he has confidence in himself. Last night, we got a chance to see what he can do in the NHL, and it's good. It's going to be REALLY good. Paired with lumbering Hal Gill, Subban saved his veteran partner a couple of times because he was fast enough to get back and cover for the big man. His outlet passing was decisive, quick and accurate. His poise and skill on the breakout was glorious to watch. I remember his draft, with the thousand-watt smile beaming from the TV, and I became a fan of his right at the start. I like him even more now.

Carey Price played a good backup's game. He made some gorgeous saves to hold the game close, but the second goal was his typical deflating softie. We can't blame him for it. Backups are backups for a reason, after all, and he fought back mentally to shake off the bad goal. But the coach can be blamed for playing the backup in a game the team really needed to win. It might not have made a difference, but then again, it might have.

Some Habs will have to pick it up tonight if they want a better result. Ryan O'Byrne was undisciplined when he took that retaliation penalty. He was also careless with his passing. Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta have to put the points up. With so much scoring missing from the lineup, the team depends on the guys who are paid to provide it even more.

I think, though, if the team comes out with the kind of no-quit attitude it showed last night, the Habs can pull off a win tonight. On paper, they shouldn't even be in it. But you can't discount the power of heart.


Anonymous said...

Touche JT. Backups are backups for a reason. Brilliant

DB said...

The issue with this team isn't whether they quit when they get behind, it's whether they start the game on time. Last night was another example of the team being outplayed and outworked for the first two periods and then showing life in the third only to fall short.

Giving any team a headstart is a recipe for a loss. Giving a team you're fighting for a playoff spot a headstart is suicidal.

DKerr said...


I listened to the game on the internet. Concerning PK Subban, I saw him play for the Bulldogs and noticed how quickly he made his decisions to pass and seemingly turned his whole body into it and delivered the pass on target. Is this the same thing you saw last night? I was inpressed with that aspect of his game.

Anonymous said...

Subban reminds me of a young Warren Cromartie (remember him ?). Always a smile on his face.

J.T. said...

@DKerr: I thought he was a little tentative to start. He seemed content just to get the puck over to Gill and let him do the rest. But as the game wore on, I'm not sure if he got caught up in the emotion of trying to tie the game, if his confidence naturally increased or if he realized Gill's puckhandling skills are brutal. Whatever it was, he started to take more control of the puck and move it decisively and quickly. When he chose to rush with it, he committed completely to that decision. When he chose to pass, he committed to his target and fired it without hesitation. He's a confident kid. I hope that helps him when he makes the inevitable mistakes his style will be vulnerable to. He seems like a quick study though, based on how quickly his skills have evolved, so maybe the mistakes will be limited.