Friday, November 14, 2008

Would you like a side of adversity with that?

So, it appears Mike Komisarek did indeed injure his right hand in that fight against Milan Lucic, and the Canadiens are hoping it's not broken. In spite of how I think Komisarek has played so far this season, any extended absence by him would put a major strain on the Habs defence.

Of course, Saturday's visitors to the Bell Centre know a thing or two about having a strained defence. The struggling Philadelphia Flyers have a d-corps that's pasted together with masking tape, to the point where they're playing a kid who should be in junior nearly 19 minutes a night and took on the mistake-waiting-to-happen Andrew Alberts from the Bruins to give him 15 minutes a game. Not a very rosy situation, to say the least.

Komisarek's loss would mean Patrice Brisebois gets back in the lineup after a two-game absence, which is usually when he plays his best hockey. But someone is going to have to move up and play next to Andrei Markov on the Canadiens top pairing, and if I were Guy Carbonneau (which I am so happy I'm not), I would choose Josh Gorges.

Carbonneau mentioned Francis Bouillon's name as a guy who needs to step up in the absence of Komisarek, but I don't think he'd be the guy to slide in on the right side next to Markov. Gorges, surprisingly, is only playing about a minute less than Komisarek per game this year already, and he plays the right side while providing the same sound defensive presence Komisarek does, or is at least supposed to.

The possible absence of Sergei Kostitsyn from the lineup would also mean the return of Steve Bégin after four games off. If that's actually what happens I'm afraid to think what this guy might do out there, because it would be the equivalent of releasing a caged Tasmanian Devil. If I were the Flyers defencemen, I'd be pretty aware if Bégin's on the ice when going back in their end to retrieve a puck.

Kostitsyn not playing would also eliminate any possibility of Carbonneau teaming him up with his brother and Tomas Plekanec on Saturday, which I was kind of hoping would happen not only for those three guys, but also so Alex Kovalev could try his hand with Robert Lang and Guillaume Latendresse. Until proven otherwise, I will remain convinced that pairing the brothers together is the best way to use them and would lead to an explosion for Andrei.

Of course, that wasn't Carbonneau's reasoning for breaking up last year's top line in the third period of a blowout in Boston.

"I was just trying to find a spark, trying to change something," he said. "Obviously there are some players who need to play better, their consistency hasn't been there from the start of the year. You can always say that you can bench him or put him in the stands, but they were successful in the past and they just need to get back to working."

Jaroslav Halak gets the nod in goal and needs to grab this opportunity to get a little more work in. A victory Saturday night would probably lead to another start in St. Louis on Sunday, and that in turn would lead to a fired up Carey Price who suddenly sees his job in jeopardy ever so slightly. I have a feeling that might do him some good.

Finally, Carbonneau got a little irked at the re-kindled stench of humiliation today at practice and tried to call the media to order, noting that the season has not even reached the quarter pole yet and his team is still looking pretty good in the standings. Of course, that's not the point and he knows it, because playing one stinker of a road game against a division rival can be written off, but playing two in a row is quite another matter.

And apparently, he hasn't noticed the San Jose Sharks.

"There isn't a single team burning up the league right now, and as far as I know we're still one of the top teams in the NHL," Carbonneau said. "We've only played 14 games and there are some teams that have played four or five more games than we have. If we can turn this around and win those games, if we're not first in the NHL we'll be pretty close. So is it time to panic? No. Is it worrisome? Yes."

And then, he came up with what I have been waiting to hear from Carbonneau for the past week, and I can only hope he sent the same kind of message to his players.

"What we did last year was fun, but now it's over," he said. "It's a new season, and teams are far more ready for us. We saw it (Thursday), and it's up to us to answer the right way and stop getting frustrated because our opponent hits us, or our opponent scores a goal in the first period or the referee gives us a penalty. It's always the danger when you have some success. The other team is also paid to win, we're not alone on the ice. We have to realize that."

That realization better start Saturday night, or this could get ugly in a hurry.


Sliver24 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sliver24 said...

It looks to me like adversity is going to be the main course if Komisarek is out for any significant length of time. Here's hoping his stay in the infirmary is a short one and that he's 100% healthy when he does come back. I don't like the way he finished the season last year.

This season is going to be a turning point in Komisarek's career. He'll either emerge as an elite, physical defensive blueliner, like Adam Foote once was, or he'll play out a successful career as a middle-tier d-man à la Craig Rivet.

Any serious hockey fan knows that confidence in one’s own abilities is among the most important factors in the on-ice performance of an NHL d-man. My feeling is that Komisarek has a little voice talking inside his head telling him that maybe he's not the immovable object he once thought he was. That little voice probably sounds a lot like that of the unstoppable force himself, Milan Lucic.

The last two times Komisarek and Lucic have butted heads it's the latter that has come out on top. It's not that Komisarek has backed down - that would never happen - but both situations have resulted in Komisarek on the DL. Komisarek seemed to limp through the end of last season and the playoffs. It’s not that he played poorly, it`s just that he didn’t have the edge that he played with for most of the year. As we found out later he had a hip injury that was the result of an encounter with Lucic.

Here’s hoping that Komisarek can bounce back to his former self after this latest setback. The Komisarek that became my favourite Hab is the one that played with a chip on his shoulder. It’s the one that crushed all comers, large and small, as they crossed the blueline on the right half-boards. I have faith that that’s the Komisarek we’ll see re-emerge over the few weeks after his return.

I’d be willing to bet that Komisarek has already circled Patrick Roy’s jersey retirement night on the calendar. The circled date has nothing to do with any ceremony. Milan Lucic had better have his head on a swivel that night because number 8 in red has a score to settle. Lucic will no doubt be ready, and it’s going to be a hell of a show.