Sunday, 11 March 2012

Game 69: Montréal 4, Vancouver 1

What a game! Grigoren-who? Yakupov, shmakupov. I want more wins like these, where we outskate and outhit and outgoaltend the opposition, they're addictive.

The Canadiens weathered the storm in the first period, due to the solid work of Carey Price. He's had some bumps in the road lately and has been accused of not playing inspired or even focused hockey, but the feeling here is that his mental preparation and readiness at worst mirrors that of the team. In any case, he sent out the message in the first that he was ready, and it may have strengthened the resolve of his teammates and made them believe they were in this game and could pull it off.

Brad Staubitz is slowly starting to win me over. I understand that Pierre Gauthier added him to the roster due to the injuries to Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen, and also to react to present circumstances in the NHL, where the Milburites are seemingly ruling the roost, having ousted the Bossyans from any position of power they may still have held. Mr. Staubitz has been restrained in his actions, playing hard and throwing bodychecks but not being called for cheap penalties and dumb plays. He has given a good account of himself when he has dropped the gloves, as shown again tonight against the taller, bigger Zack Kassian. I haven't noticed this before, but in this tilt Mr. Staubitz fought as a lefthander, which may have surprised Mr. Kassian. His hard bodycheck against Alex Edler in the third forced the latter to flip the puck into the stands and take a delay of game penalty, which led to P.K.'s goal on the two-man advantage. Another point in his favour, and this one may seem farfetched, but I liked how he skated hard after a loose puck in the first period, one which could have yielded a scoring chance, but in which race he was beaten by Roberto Luongo. It is crazy that we're reduced to noticing this, but it was good to see that he veered away from contact with the goalie, as opposed to the mendacious Milan Lucic who "could only brace for impact" when confronted with a similar situation against Ryan Miller. If Mr. Staubitz can continue playing hard and clean and smart like he does presently, I'll be happy to have him on this team.

My friend Eric joined me shortly after the scrap, and as we drank beers and chin-wagged, we weren't as concentrated on the game as we could have been. He did make it in plenty of time to see Ryan Kesler score for the Canucks, at which juncture we both bellowed at the screen: "Kesler, you're adequately compensated!" This is a tradition which started during the 2006-07 season when we were roommates. Bobby Clarke had just signed Ryan to a $1.9 million offer sheet with the Flyers, and the Canucks petulantly had to match it while NHL GM's howled at Mr. Clarke's perfidy. It was comedic how the Flyers GM gave as good as he got, exclaiming that if he wasn't supposed to make use of the offer sheet provisions, maybe the NHL should take it out of the CBA. In any case, a young Ryan Kesler, still learning the NHL game, was overvalued thought most commenters and analysts, and Eric and I would proclaim: "Kesler, you're overpaid!" whenever he struggled. A couple years later, as his play improved to the point that he was outplaying his contract, we would decry: "Kesler, you're underpaid!" Which brings us to the point we're at today, where we find it necessary to point out the equilibrium between his performance and his remuneration, to quizzical looks from onlookers who aren't in the know.

The Blake Geoffrion goal on a Louis Leblanc was a nice moment, it's great to see our young AHL callups produce, but it got Eric grumbling about Roberto Luongo's performance, although not as much as the first Erik Cole goal. I tried to sell it as a sniper's goal, on a backhand, which every goalie will tell you is the hardest shot to stop, but he wasn't buying. We did discuss the possibility of pulling Roberto for Corey Schneider, but I talked him out of it, told him it sent the wrong message to his teammates. We got a little sidetracked about how the Canucks should have handled things at the trade deadline, since I think keeping Mr. Schneider indicates that management doesn't trust their $64 million man. I thought they should have flipped their backup goalie to the Lightning for pieces to help on their Cup run, as the Canucks should load up to win this year, their future is now. He countered that they should have traded Roberto for Vincent Lecavalier, swapping crazy contracts with each other, and I found that notion intriguing. With Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Vincent Lecavalier, the Canucks would have been super deep at centre, and much stronger for the playoffs. Unfortunately, the NHL isn't run by lively minds such as ours, and there were two pesky No Trade Clauses that might have caused a problem. So we let the matter rest.

In time for me to celebrate P.K. Subban's sweet goal on the 5 on 3 powerplay. The Canadiens controlled the puck, looked as if they knew what to do with the puck, Andrei Markov looked like The General of old, and P.K. didn't hit the rafters with his windup, he just took a good hard shot that actually hit the net. I took the time to sing 'The Ballad of Andrei Markov', as Eric, like so many other hockey 'fans', doesn't really know him. I find that Andrei flies under the radar outside of Montreal, I've won countless hockey pools by grabbing him way later than he should have lasted, and then giggled as he piled up the points. It's surprising that in a media-saturated market like Montreal, our players don't get the attention that guys like Dion Phaneuf and James Reimer and Matt Stajan and Darcy Tucker and Tie Domi get.

By the time Erik Cole made it 4-1, Eric was offering to trade me Roberto Luongo for Carey Price straight up. I rejected that crazy offer. Years and years ago, I was proposing this same deal to him, a swap of hometown goalies, but back then Carey was going through growing pains, and Roberto seemed rock-solid and to just be itching for a chance at the post-season. As Carey progressed and Roberto amassed critics, my offer changed, and I would request draft picks and players to make the deal. Nowadays, I feel very comfortable with Carey and without Roberto, so Eric's feeble entreaties are brusquely rebuffed.

So bring on the Sabres. We're not going to the playoffs, let's ruin their chances as well.

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