Okay, I know the hockey gods are stingy and ruthless, but I still can't help laughing my ass off, even though gloating will probably come back to haunt me. Then again, perhaps this game was just cosmic payback that's been owing for a while.
I remember back in the early '80s when I, the only hockey fan in the house, used to sneak the radio on just loud enough to catch the Habs games after everyone else had gone to bed. The signal came from Montreal, via an Antigonish relay tower, so it wasn't very stable. Still, I listened to every single Habs game. There was one night, maybe in 1988 or '89, when the Habs were playing the Bruins. Habs were up 2-0, with about 1:30 to go. Just when I was thinking it was all safely in hand, the Bs scored two in about thirty seconds to tie with a minute left. Then, to stick a blazing poker in the wound, they scored the winner with about five seconds left. Less than two minutes between victory and ignominous, horrifying defeat, and the Habs got totally screwed.
As a friend of mine said last night, the hockey gods must be women, because they never forget. We both remembered that horrible Habs collapse from the '80s, and we figure last night was the long-awaited fateful retribution.
The Canadiens, overall, didn't play a bad game, but their inherent inability to score was apparent once again. They had a lot of chances, and sure, Thomas is a good goalie, but normal players would have buried one or two of those. The fact the Canadiens can't finish is a serious concern Gauthier needs to think about.
On the other hand, Carey Price was brilliant for the Habs. The two goals he allowed were the direct result of bad passes by the patchwork defence and heads-up-ass play by the alleged support network. Price handled the puck like a Faberge egg, and he stopped it like caulking. The kid is the real deal, and I'm no longer whining about not drafting Kopitar.
That said, it'd be nice if someone the Canadiens drafted would turn out to be a natural scorer. Is there even such a thing anymore? Everyone stresses defence so strongly, can a player just be a goalscorer? Considering the elemental nature of defence league wide, does anyone develop a player who's just a pure scorer? Cammalleri seems to be one, but he only works if the people on the ice with him play a deeper style of game that can benefit his one-dimensional focus. Gionta can score, but he's so small, it's tough for him to be in the middle of things. Maybe it's Myax "Bruins Killer" Patcheretty. The kid said last night that was the biggest goal he ever scored in his life. I agree, but hope there's more in the tank than that one.
Overall, the Habs tried to stay with the system, but they can't really do it with the deeply weakened D. When you have Wisniewski and Picard paired up, mistakes are inevitable. There's a reason why the latter has never been able to crack an NHL top six, and the former gets crap for being a one-dimensional offensive player.
The top line, the team's usual stalwart on offence, is struggling. Cammalleri is not firing like he used to, and AK is starring in the role of Fallout Boy. Pleks normally keeps those guys in line, but he's having a rough patch too, taking dumb penalties and making ill-advised decisions. I don't remember the last PK breakaway he had, which used to be one a game, at least.
On the other hand, Gomez seems to have extracted his head from his back passage. He's no longer cutting left on every rush and dumping the puck behind the net. He was actually using his speed to create last night. Unfortunately, most of his teammates don't keep up with him, so he often found himself alone in the O-zone. That will change, though, if the other guys know they can trust him to hold onto the puck long enough for them to get into position.
Lots of times, a team can play good hockey and get nothing out of it. Last night, though, the Habs kept trying hard and they were rewarded. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes...rarely...a team deserves to come back and win after falling early. The Canadiens needed that win, and they willed it to happen, which is impressive.
The side effect, for we fans, is Claude Julien had to...once again...take the walk of shame across Bell Centre ice at the end of the game. Knowing he's going to rip his team a collective new one tomorrow was very, very pleasant. Sometimes, you have to risk the wrath of the hockey gods and gloat in the aftermath of a glorious comeback win.
I'm gloating. I, and my team, may pay later, but for now the gloating feels SO good!