Sunday, April 11, 2010

Let's not get snooty now

There are countless numbers of reasons for Canadiens fans to be griping about the state of their team heading into the playoffs, but there's one very big reason not to.

That would be that the team is going to the playoffs at all.

In spite of losing Andrei Markov for most of the first half of the season, in spite of losing Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, Benoit Pouliot and Andrei Kostitsyn for big stretches, in spite of needing to find some cohesion among a group of disparate players brought in through free agency and trade and in spite of needing to adjust to a new coach with a very rigid style.

The Canadiens are in the playoffs when there would be no reason to believe they should be, and even though there was a time many moons ago when simply making the playoffs wasn't good enough, that era is long gone. The greatest evidence of that came Saturday night, with the Canadiens clinging to a 3-3 tie with the league's 29th ranked team, and the Bell Centre crowd rose to its feet to will its team to overtime and the playoff berth that came with it. Then, when Cammalleri and Pouliot each hit posts before Dion Phaneuf ended it with a stoppable shot that got past Jaroslav Halak, the team gathered at centre ice to salute the crowd and take a bow.

And good for them, because making the playoffs in the modern NHL is not a given, and I think people need to realize that. Just ask the Leafs. 

But, and you knew it was coming, the playoffs will be no easy task for a team that comes in looking very mediocre. Looking very much like a non-playoff team.

Halak lost his third straight game, the first time that has happened all season, and what once looked like a closed debate now appears to be open again. I still think Halak will get the start in Game 1, but after looking like the situation was a bit too serious for him Saturday night, I don't think his leash will be very long. Another loss, and Carey Price gets the call.

Another problem is the play of Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot, neither of whom seemed to want to raise their level of intensity one iota to match the gravity of the games the Habs had this week. How these guys can watch a guy like Brian Gionta get murdered while he fights for space in front of the opposing net and not want to match that level of compete is beyond me. The more I watch Gionta play, the more I believe he should be captain of the Canadiens even though I've been an Andrei Markov guy all along. He is relentless. It's just too bad not enough of his teammates are.

Those aren't the only problems here, just the main ones, and we have a few days to pick them all apart. But remember, the only reason we're still talking about this is that the Canadiens have qualified for the big dance. That still means something, like it or not.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

If Washington beats Boston tomorrow at home which most probably will happen as the game means nothing to the Bruins to boot, Washington will finish 34 points in front of the Canadiens who will finish 8th if the Flyers win tomorrow.

c/p off web

What was biggest NHL playoffs upset?

Answer - In 1982, the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Edmonton Oilers, despite being 48 pts behind them in the regular season.

Arpon Basu said...

Plus Mtl took 5 out of 8 pts off Washington this year, and handed the Caps one of their 5 regulation time losses at home all year. Just saying

Anonymous said...

Well that's what I was just saying yesterday when I mentioned that I like our chances better vs. Washington than say NJ. But apprarently such an opinion leads me and other Habs fans to be not so intelligent.

This does not mean that Wash. is a cr*ppy team. Hey, they may still crush us, but I'd rather watch the Caps and Habs in an exciting, offensive series, than watch the Devils and Sabres bore me /us into submission.

Besides, throw in the Theo factor, and anything is possible! So go Flyers.

- CS

V said...

Happy to play whoever it turns out to be. Every team has its weaknesses.

I think the Habs are one of the biggest wildcards... people don't know what is going to show up. The team that played the Islanders and Hurricans or the one that played the Sabres.

If our scoring breaks out, we could be tough and goaltending is consistent (not so much the last three games).

Oh, and to all those that whined and moaned about this team all year saying they would not make the playoffs. You know who you are, we know who most of you are and now we all know what you are... wrong.

Hey, it was tough to hang with the team through all those injuries when it was easy to throw in the towel (luckily the players did not listen to you). You're forgiven.

Anonymous said...

A small point: Pouliot played GREAT against TO. Yes, he missed that open net. But he was engaged, creative, and hustling all night. Credit where due. As for Kostitsyn, his play down the stretch has been one of the most pathetic displays by a supposedly top-6 forward I've ever seen.

kyleroussel said...

It's true that making the playoffs counts for something. But there should be a difference in the minds of fans between happy to make the playoffs, and satisfied with the season.

In yesterday's press conference, Martin said that "The fact that we made it (the playoffs). Our goal is achieved".

Doesn't that sound fitting of a man who, despite being behind the bench with some terrific Ottawa teams, has a career playoff record of like 38-47? (or something like that, I believe Arpon posted the actual number not long ago)

And while I'm glad they're in, and that they have a "chance" against whoever they play, with quotes like that, you can't help but think that they'll play like one of those teams that will just be happy to be there. Then everyone on earth will just chalk up this season's demise to the injuries that plagued the team all year, and that next year will hopefully be better. Right. Sounds an awful lot like the Matrix. Take the red pill, get on the ride, and just press the reset button when it all falls apart. Exactly as the Habs brass has it planned.

nk said...

Watching Gionta get manhandled by Phaneuf and still manage to score was one of the games highlights for me. I also loved that Markov and Gomez appear to be ready for the playoffs.

If only Pouliot (who got bounced around like he weighed 90lbs last night) and AK can, at the very least, find a way to make some room for themselves than we could be in better shape than we seem. We also need Cammalleri to stop letting passes go by him...

Please tell me Sergei isn't benched for game one...good grief.

It's going to be a tough one but thanks for reminding me how impressive it is that the Habs have come this far.

pfhabs said...

Arpon:

-I can well imagine Pierre Boivin woke up this a.m. with concern then started to read The Daily Hab-it and a smile came over his face. another year as a bubble team and more apologists than he actually put on his own payroll are doing his job for him. sad state of affairs when "mediocrity" (your word) becomes acceptable.

-unfortunately for the Canadiens' brass and fanbase other teams strive for excellence not "mediocrity". For example; in the past 12 years the Devils have never missed the playoffs and averaged more than 100 points a year. the Wings have just completed their 10th consecutive 100 point season. the Wings have not been out of the top 5 in the last 15 years...more examples abound but what the heck just making the dance is a really big deal. really ?

-sure, being in is better than being out but there's a huge difference in being in by 32 points (WSHDC 120) rather than 1 point (MTL 88). the biggest difference being that, the Canadiens have more in common with the rangers, atlanta and carolina than they do with the caps, devils or sabres.

-but they are in and we are reminded that 28 years ago the improbable happened when the Kings beat the Oilers. wow once in 28 years, great odds...before more apologists get into the record books and remind us all about other 8-1 pairings that went against the form remember its one thing to believe anything can happen it's quite another that it actually happens and a longer shot that it is your team that is the chosen one. but let's not forget anything can happen

-for those of you who had the audacity to even predict that la sainte flanelle would miss the playoffs it's a relief to me that all of you have been forgiven. how could you have been so wrong as to miss your prediction by one measley point. 1 point out of a possible 164 points how can you live with yourselves ? with that margin of error (0.6%) in Vegas you'd be instant millionaires but when it comes to the Canadiens you must hang your heads in shame and have scorn heaped on you by their apologists.. in my view you are closer to the truth than the apologists want to believe

-so here they are, mission accomplished according to the coach. his ass and those of Boivin and Gauthier seem to be safe. Martin gets his $500,000 bonus for making the playoffs---yes sir $500,000 on a loser point to the 29th placed team...great gig if you can get it

-as for the fans, the WSHDC Capitals are ready to roll over in the face of the juggernaut in red, white and blue. but in case the Caps spoil the parade let me give you a hint at the apologists' views after the first round; 'next year we'll be better, one full year under the new coach, the new system and with our new teamamtes and if we can avoid all those injuries we'll be top 4 !

-definition of mediocrity ? when you lower your objectives so much you always meet them.

-but then again I might be completely dans les patates (aka wrong) and this group of plucky players will astound me and win big time. so lets enjoy the ride no matter how long or short

Olivier said...

PF: They aren't "plucky". They are quite talented (albeith not overly so) and finally healthy.

Doesn't change much about the fact that every arrows points toward WSH making mincemeat of them anyway. But this full squad isn't a "plucky" bubble team.

But I get your point, that is: they suck and Boivin should be fired. Duly noted. Hope you still find time to enjoy Ovechkin ripping trough them :).

pfhabs said...

Olivier:

-seems your understanding is partially correct...they are an average team with a marketing man running hockey operations

-a putz who shows his hockey acumen by running his pie hole in public about which first line superstar centre they will sign; allowing his former centre to get skewered by certain members of the montreal media for years without a single public word of defense; allowing the same to happen to a young talented goalie and a warrior of a defenceman; elevates his former classmate and one of the least talented chiefs of pro scouting into the GM role under the lie that he was best qualified and puts marketing ahead of on ice results. yep Boivin has his little cabal in place solidifying his own ass in the chair

-as for sucking on many a night they did but on others they elevated performance so they are average. not best not worst. in case you haven't noticed they've had a full squad for about 10 games now save Metro and couldn't beat the Isles, the Canes nor the Leafs with all that talent. needed a minor miracle from Jaro to beat the Flyers 1-0 and got beaten by the sabres in a game where the sabres played 2 minutes of hockey

-but that's for a future discussion for now just enjoy the long playoff run.

-as for 'the russian machine' no worries MAB will cover him