Saturday, January 8, 2011

Aftermath: WOOOOOO!!

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!


Number31 said...

Hockey Gods got the Habs' back. They also saw the injustice handed down from the Toronto War Room on that Darche goal Thomas put in his own net that was disallowed.

Anonymous said...

We have competent scorers. What we dont have is a system that allows them to be successful.

Our forwards are tentative and too concerned with back-checking in case of a turnover. They dont spend enough time in the offensive zone and rarely generate offense off of rebounds.

We have a coach that rewards good defensive play with extra ice time. Our top lines arent getting enough ice time to score consistently.

There is nothing wrong with AK. He's streaky and sometimes takes mental holidays but when he is on he is very good. Unfortunately for him Martin staples him to the bench instead of riding out the rough spots. My guess is AK wouldnt mind be traded out rather than suffer under Martin.

Im not a dump the coach poster just yet but Martin's act is wearing thin and I suspect he is losing the room.


Anonymous said...

Listening quietly to radio broadcasts. Man... hearing the play by play in the Montreal end then hearing the crowd roar and the claxon as the announcer yells he scores! Wondering how it got there:-)Hearing the name yelled "Lafleur!" "Lemaire with a wicked...".

You can do the same thing today if you shut your eyes and listen to Bob Cole. Like a time machine he describes a quarter of the play half the rink away.

Hockey like life is not fair. Last night it worked out for the team. The Cup doesn't come to luck, although luck helps. That is why the series are best out of seven.

Thanks for the radio memories. I miss the voice of Danny Gallivan - whoops dated myself.

seriousHabit said...

I have to agree,with your comments on the team and Martin. The Canadiens are in fact, a well balanced offensive group, however under Martin's defense first system they don't have the ability to focus on striking first in the offensive zone. It is more about positioning and forechecking.

The best comment I have read about Martin is that his system first priorities make a mediocre team competitive on most nights a creative team becomes stifled under the system offensively. It has been a long time since we have seen "run and gun" at the Bell...

Excellent article I always enjoy your writing

moeman said...

Considering JM line juggles so much maybe its time to but Squid on with Mex.

Anonymous said...

Gotta admit, those two first goals were so incredibly fluky. Patch's goal was awesome.

Desharnais is a keeper, is a keeper, is a keeper, is a keeper. Cannot help but become a star if JM gives him the minutes.

Anonymous said...

Plekanec is fed up of playing on the PK's, so he takes the penalties instead.

Anonymous said...

Martin's comment that some players play 60 minutes and some are a drag on the others explains why Darche plays on the PP and gets so much ice time (it also explains his line juggling). The guy is an inspiration on the bench, on the ice and probably in the dressing room and he should have been the first star last night. We fans bemoan his stone hands but this guy is a player. And AK46 is so outta here at the trade deadline. Talent is nice but a team made up of 60 minute players will beat 30 minutes of talent every time. I'd like to see more of Eller. He looks like a 60 minute guy to me. If he or Desharnais can play the wing I would stick AK46 in the press box.

Anonymous said...

DD a star? Are you serious. We have been down that road before . Too small . It is one thing to light it up or be effective in the AHl but another to be consistent and produce in the show.

Dont see anything that makes me believe he will be here long term.

JT :Nice to see you talk about drafting and letting a goal scorer flourish. I have maintained this theme for some time.

Anonymous said...

Agree about AK46 .But not true about 30 min talent losing to 60 min workers. It just does not happen on a consistent basis. That 30 min talent team with a goalie making timely saves beats a 60 min team with stone hands 80% of the time. A team can be out played for 2.5 periods and as long as they have a Malkin, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Spezza, Datsyuk it will win all the time if the opposition is the better part of lunchpail guys. Just dont agree with that.

I think they should get what they can for AK and do a little more in the interview process. It is a little disturbing that fans like us are giving up on AK, Laps,Gui, Chips. Some times valid and at other times it is a function of their inability to fit in with a coach.

Princess Mononoke said...

Excellent article. My feelings exactly.

Anonymous said...

If we're talking comebacks, I remember the playoffs in 1971, when Montreal was behind 5-1 late in the second period when Henri Richard scored. Montreal scored five goals in the third period to win 7-5. They went on to defeat Boston in seven games, going on to win the Stanley Cup. Ken Dryden won the Conn Smythe trophy that year.