Plop plop, fizz fizz

Oh what a relief it is,
to finally get a win at home before a three day break. And seeing the Hawk in a Habs jersey? How cool is that!With the Bruins missing Thornton, Zhamnov and Slegr, this was a game the home team should have won decisively. The result was too close for comfort thanks to a terrible first period from the Habs. They looked like the keystone cops with pucks sliding off heels and skipping over sticks. At first I thought it might have been soft ice, but the problem disappeared in the 2nd and 3rd. Could be a young team squeezing their sticks at home. The Canadiens outplayed the B's by a good margin in the final 40 minutes, and the score was kept close by the goaltending - Raycroft outplayed Theo.

On the whole, it was a good performance by the Habs. Kovalev is an alien. His stickhandling is simply jaw-dropping. The top line was dominant, with Koivu's usual effort and Perezhogin's steady improvement. Fisher's article contains a great quote from Saku:

"On my goal, I thought the kid (Perezhogin) had lost the puck. I was gonna give him heck, but hey, he's a great player. He did the job. If he's not great now, we're gonna make him great," Koivu promised.

Now that's leadership. I also thought Plekanec had an excellent game, aside from his 1st period gaffe. Markov is starting to add another dimension to his awesome all-around game: leading the rush. Souray is getting better with baby steps, and even Ribeiro started to look better in the 3rd.

I don't like to gripe about officiating. Referees have very difficult jobs. They don't have the benefit of a bird's-eye view of the ice or slo-mo instant replays. Nonetheless, the penalty calls seemed very inconsistent and there were what I perceived to be even-up calls. Neither team knew what to expect from shift to shift, which led to a lot of diving. From the start, there were a lot of "obstruction" offenses - little hooks on the gloves of a shooter, etc. - that went uncalled or unnoticed. Late in the game, the rodeo was back on with hooking and holding, clutching and grabbing reminiscent of '03-04. Perezhogin made the rookie mistake of making a tackle look too blatant and received a minor for it. TSN analyst Pierre McGuire had the gall to say the officiating had "consitancy to the end," presumably just because the refs made a call in the final minutes.

Five of the seven goals were scored during one of 18 power play opportunities. As a fan, that's not what I want to see. I want to see more goals like Koivu's off the rush. If they had clamped down early on the obstruction, I think there would have been fewer penalties last night. Because of the inconsistancy, players were constantly testing their limits with the refs to see what they could get away with from shift to shift.

Another jewel by McGuire was his gushing over Brian Leetch. A pokecheck on the Habs' #7 defenseman, rookie Mark Streit, was replayed as evidence of Leetch's defensive brilliance. McGuire also cited Leetch's team-leading icetime when describing him as a "monster performer." A closer look shows the reason for all those minutes - power plays. On a defense thinner than Calista Flockhart and with Boynton in just his second game, Leetch was fourth in icetime when you combine even strength and shorthanded minutes. When he's not on the PP Leetch is a liability, and Mike Sullivan knows it. I will concede the Leetch is superb on the PP - he had a goal and an assist with the extra man last night. However, he was on the ice for Koivu's even strength goal and at least two of Montreal's PP goals, one of which his man (Ryder or Perezhogin) scored from the lip of the crease. The more even strength and shorthanded minutes he gets in the next 6 games vs. the Habs, the happier I'll be. Boynton, on the other hand, is clearly the leader on the blueline. With the younger UFA age, Mike O'Connell is going to have to seriously rethink the way the Bruins handle contract disputes. Was ticking off Boynton and risking losing him in a couple of years really worth the $150,000 they saved?

Visors: has anyone ever considered that, by not wearing a visor, a player may be making a sacrifice for the team? If Pat Leahy was wearing a visor last night, Sheldon Souray's high stick would very likely have been missed. Since Leahy was cut, it was an automatic four minutes. More visors = fewer double minors for high sticking.

Lastly, there is an article on ESPN about Alex Perezhogin by Scott Burnside. It starts out OK, but quickly turns into a sappy piece about Perezhogin's and Stafford's struggle to "walk free of their shared past." Get a load of this line:

"Perhaps that's where the answer to that difficult question lies, that question of two players being able to finally put the past behind them."

...and that's why they're two of ...Bart's People.

And why, oh why, do reporters keep calling referring to the Bertuzzi and Perezhogin incidents as "hits??" They're only "hits" in the mafia sense of the word. Calling them that does a huge disservice to hockey. Hits are legal in hockey. Sucker punches and vicious high sticks are illegal, and are not hits.


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