Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Game 67: Montréal 4, Calgary 5

While the Canadiens aren't in the playoff hunt, I recently made a vow to myself and others that I would enjoy the rest of the season for what it was: an opportunity to watch hockey, without the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with living and dying with the team's Stanley Cup prospects. I had good success at the end of this NFL season as the Chargers were all but eliminated with 6 games to go. I accepted it, moved on, and was able to appreciate the artistry of its offence and see some promise out of a few younger players on the defensive side. I didn't care if they won or lost, I just enjoyed the game. I figured the rest of the Canadiens' season could be the same.

In fact, it may be very difficult to stomach the final games of this season. Somehow, this roster has become denuded of talent and promise, outside a few outliers. They used to be the little team that could, that played bigger than it was, and eliminated the Penguins and Caps. It could be frustrating to see them getting bullied, but how rewarding was it to see them dancing around the Zdeno Charas and the Dion Phaneufs of the league, guys who look good next to a measuring tape but can't keep pace with a Brian Gionta or Tomas Plekanec.

Now they’re the bigger team that can’t and won’t until at least next training camp. The roster has more size, which so many have been pining for, but it has come at the detriment of talent, an offensive identity and a belief in itself, that it could overcome goons and blind, corrupt referees and find a way. The entire team seems to be lost, dispirited, and can't find a reason to persevere in the face of adversity. Merriam Webster has updated the entry on the term 'lame duck' by adding a picture of Randy Cunneyworth.

Carey Price made some boneheaded plays tonight, and he can't be faulted for falling victim to the malaise that grips this team, although some fans are now blaming him for the team's woes, which is ludicrous. Imagine if a genie appeared and offered three wishes to us, in the form of former Canadiens at the height of their powers, would we wish for Ken Dryden, or would we feel that Carey Price is a strength on the team, and would we ask for Guy Lafleur, Jean Béliveau and Larry Robinson? Because forward and defence are the big huge giant jagged holes on the team that need improvement?

On Jarome Iginla's first goal, both Tomas Plekanec and Alexei Emelin had a chance to put a shoulder on him and prevent him from waltzing to the front of the net. Both didn’t, they tried to poke check the puck. This kind of play is indicative of players who have given up, are not thinking clearly and are not fully focused on personal sacrifice for a team win. Bodychecking him should have been an instinctive reaction, not the bewildered, ineffectual attempt they displayed.

To add to this thought, it looked like the kind of goal that comes after a team gives up a bad goal in a close game. Those players are still thinking about it and are down while the other team has the energy, and they storm the net while the defending team is still mentally in the past. In our case, the boys are thinking about this whole season, instead of the game in progress.

About ten games back some of us were worried that a futile winning streak would endanger our draft status while bringing no tangible rewards. We can stop worrying about that now, and fervently hope that we win a few more games before the season is out, because if les Glorieux keep playing like this, it can destroy the franchise, for years to come, since established players will want out of town, young players will pick up bad habits and attitude, and other players will not want to come here by way of trades and free agency.

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