One of the easiest things for an armchair coach to do is criticize. We see the play unfold at TV speed, or from high up above if we're lucky enough to be in the rink. We can see the trailer sneaking in on the PK and the open man on the PP, and we scream at the player on the ice who doesn't see what we do. So, while criticism comes easy to us, it's sometimes a lot harder to give credit where it's due.
With that in mind, Scott Gomez played a helluva game last night. In a big game with deep psychological implications for his team, the guy who's looked like the inspiration for the Beatles "Nowhere Man" most of the year, shone. He used his speed effectively and went to the middle rather than peeling off to the left on his rushes. He worked hard on the boards, and made a great play to break up a Lightning chance on the PP. Most obviously different from his play in other games this season, he made some very quick decisions. The Pacioretty goal on the 2-on-1 was a perfect example. A month ago, Gomez would have waited, waited and then, out of time and options, let a shot go right at a goalie who was set for it. Last night, though, he fired a great pass to Pax at top speed and the kid buried it.
The surprising thing about his play last night wasn't that he actually had such a great game, but that fans seem so ready to dismiss it. Sometimes, we become so critical of a player (not that Gomez hasn't deserved it alot of the time) that we fail to see the good in him. What we forget is, even if the guy has sucked all year, is overpaid and deeply frustrating, he's still a member of the Canadiens. If Gomez starts playing up to his level of ability and producing, it might mean your pet theory about his level of suckitude is debunked, but it also means your team has a better chance to win. Gomez isn't my favourite player, but he's a Hab. And if he can help the team down the stretch and into the playoffs, I'm cheering for him.
The strong play of everyone else who contributed last night: Desharnais, Plekanec, Gill, Price, Gionta, Pacioretty, Subban, Hamrlik and the rest, we're beginning to expect. Those are guys who bring it every night and it's easy to root for them. It's the guys like Gomez and Kostitsyn who, because of their inconsistency, are tougher to love. That's why we have to remember to give them credit when they help our team...even if they drive you nuts the rest of the time.