Thursday, October 21, 2010

Marty sucks, but he's great. I'm so confused...

The net's the other way, Cammy

Tonight, the Canadiens take on the slumping Devils at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

We know this because there will be more than 8000 asses in the stands. And it's no wonder that those forked-tail bastards aren't drawing crowds at home; with a 1-4-1 record they sit 29th overall, and they rank 27th overall in both goals for (10) and goals against (21).

Interesting stat: though the season is still young, the Devils have yet to win on a weekend (0-2-0) while the Habs have yet to lose on a weekend (2-0-0). Unfortunately, today is Thursday. Both of the Hab losses--one regulation and one overtime--have come on a weekday. And the Devils only win? Yep... a weekday. Additionally, the Devils' only win has come on a road game. Someone beer me; this could be a long night.

The Devils' record is borne from a number of problems, the biggest of which may be the contract of Ilya Kovalchuk. With the cap money that his contract is sucking up, New Jersey has found themselves having to play bodies short just to fit under their daily cap allowance. Undermanned is never a good thing, especially if you can't afford to call up replacements for your injured players (Bryan Rolston, Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov being the most notable). The've also been forced to fill out their defence corps on the cheap, which leads to probably their biggest hurdle: adequate protection for Martin Brodeur.

Marty isn't getting any younger, and a heavier workload during games has exposed some cracks in the armour of a goalie who up until now has had the benefit of playing behind a stifling defense. That said, you can't discount the fact that he's 38-16-5 all-time against the Canadiens, with a measly 1.78 goals against average. What it comes down to is this: he's still got the talent to will a win, especially against a team that he wants to beat more than any other.

With the benefit of a four-day layoff, Carey Price will again start in goal, meaning that Alex the Bald Auld will have after tonight (hopefully) not played a minute this season. And the revolving door continues on the Gionta/Gomez line. Tonight Tom Pyatt gets to play with the (little) big boys to see if they can generate some chemistry.

2010-2011 Regular Season, Game Six: New Jersey vs. Montreal

First Period:
  • The dog's crapping everywhere, wife is suffering from mondo morning sickness in the evening... commenting could be quite sporadic tonight
  • Will Pyatt be the spark that Gomez and Giona need on their line?
  • Hey, a fight! Moen spent the entire thing trying to set up for the knockout instead of landing points. Lapierre's got to pass along some of his new-found knowledge
  • Oops. Price doesn't hug the post, and is surprised by Parise coming out from behind the net. 1-0 Devils. Will that be all that Marty needs?
  • Defensemen swatting at the puck scares me. Miss, and you're screwed
  • When a player puts up his arms to say "I didn't do it", he probably did
  • 20 minutes of pretty sloppy hockey. Hopefully they're shaken off the rust

Second Period:
  • A slimy, greasy goal due to hard work would do the Habs good right about now. They've got to make life difficult for Brodeur
  • Decent penalty kill. Will it bring some momentum?
  • Good gap control by the Devil's defense. Need some quick passes to open up some skating room
  • Devils are making it look like the Habs are playing on a smaller rink
  • To stay competitive, Marty's girth will continue to grow in proportion to his diminishing mobility
  • NJ powerplay expires, Hab defenseman deflects a point shot between Carey's pads. 2-0 Devils.
  • After all these years, Brodeur really knows how to sell a goalie interference call
  • 2 slimy goals for NJ, and two really boring periods of hockey. I could have been at Rock Of Ages tonight.

Third Period:
  • Showing more energy in the first 2 minutes. Guess that JM reminded them between periods that they're wearing skates
  • Price screened on a knuckler from the point. 3-0 Devils
  • Powerplay. Pot one... please?
  • Marty's seeing everything, and Habs are second to all rebounds
  • NO bounces going Montreal's way tonight. They're even missing open nets
  • If the Habs don't start cashing in on a few powerplays, teams will willingly start taking penalties. When's Markov back?
  • Price with a great stop point-blank. He's had to make some great saves tonight, could've been 6-0
  • The three shots against in the last 15 seconds will help Price's save% a little 

Zzzzzzz.... huh? what? The game's over? Next time the play the Devils, I'm puttin' toothpicks between my eyelids.

Well there you have it... the Devils easily played their best game of this young season, and it was prototypical New Jersey hockey: clog the neutral zone, forecheck just hard enough to make it difficult for the other team to exit their zone with any speed, and keep the the shooting lanes clear and the shots to the outside to make life as easy a possible on Martin Brodeur. After a game like this, it's easy to see why he's the all-time leader in shutouts.

So far this season, the Devils have two wins. Martin Brodeur has two shutouts. I'm starting to see a pattern here...

As for the Habs, they never looked like they shook of the rust that had gathered from a four-day layoff. In a nutshell, they didn't look ready to play. Price got caught napping on the first goal by not completely hugging his post, and the rest of the team couldn't get anything going in the periods that followed. It didn't help that the second goal was the result of not being able to exit their zone after coming back to full strength after killing off a powerplay, then having a defenseman thoroughly redirect a long shot between Price's pads. A screened Price couldn't do anything about a knuckler that floated under the crossbar for the nail in the coffin.

Oh, and the Habs powerplay? Don't even talk to me about it. It's been mentioned that Andrei Markov may return from ligament surgery next week, which should help them score with the man advantage. We can hope, anyway.

Ok, now for the good:

Haha. Ok, well, um... aside from that first goal, Price stopped everything that he should (and could) have, including a couple of beauty glove saves and a couple in from point-blank range. You know, the kind that the Habs couldn't muster against Brodeur all night.

All in all, meh. If you can't score, you can't win, and the Habs simply weren't able find a way to do enough to force the issue. Full credit to the Devils, though the Habs definitely owed a WAY better effort for the 21,273 in the stands what came to see then this Thursday night. At least I was only out my time and the seven bucks a month that I shell out for RDS.

I look at it this way: one game can be a fluke. If they turn in two stinkers in a row, then it's a trend, and something to worry about. Unless you're the '76-'77 Canadiens (and these guys aren't), no matter how well (or how poorly) they play, they'll probably lose 1/3 of their games. And the opposite is true: no matter how well (or how poorly) they play, they'll probably win 1/3 of them, too. It just so happens that tonight was one of the former. When they start pissing away the other third, then I'll start to lose sleep.

Next game (not that the Canadiens really played one tonight) is against the Senaturds. Let's hope that the Habs can find their skating/passing/hitting/effort between now and 7pm Saturday.

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