2006-01-30

Musings from Saturday

Hockey Night In Canada featured a 4-3 OT win by the Habs over the Leafs.

The game was presented as a matchup between desperate, slumping clubs. Why are the two grand old Canadian franchises struggling? Mudcrutch has part of the explanation: The Leafs and Habs have had the two toughest schedules in the league thus far. They have Ottawa to thank for that - both have faced the mighty Sens six times.

~~~

Q: Which of the following offenses is the most heinous?

- Cross-checking
- Slashing
- Interfering with the opposing goalie in his crease
- Elbowing
- Picking the puck up with your hand and deliberately throwing it over the glass
- Accidentally clearing the puck out of bounds from the defensive zone


A: Trick question! In the eyes of the NHL, they are *all* equally egregious and all are worth a two-minute minor penalty!

In this topsy-turvy, crazy new NHL, this is the single most ridiculously inept piece of legislation. Well, either that or The Trapezoid. Now all we need is The Parallelogram in front of the net, where attacking players are permitted to spend three seconds or less without the ball puck. Or maybe a Rhombus out by the blueline. If you score a goal from The Rhombus, it's worth two points.

Calling a puck-over-glass minor to put a team down 5-on-3, especially after a borderline tone-setting minor, puts a team in a very difficult situation. I mean, how can you justify giving a team a 1-0 lead over another in this situation? WTF does that have to do with the actual game of hockey?? And it seems like this has happened to the Habs an awful lot this year. But the refs have to call it - there is no room for interpretation.

The obvious solution (are you listening, Competition Committee??) is to penalize this act the same way you penalize icing - a faceoff in the defensive zone with no player changes.

~~~

Richard Zednik was a healthy scratch Saturday night. In his place, Raitis Ivanans dressed and was placed on the fourth line with Mike Ribeiro and Aaron Downey. Talk about a rose between two thorns.

What's wrong with Zed? He's on pace for his worst season in Montreal. Ever since the Kyle McLaren forearm to the schnozz, Zednik has been turning into a one trick pony: he chokes up on his stick, hunkers down and drives hard to the outside. He's had some productive seasons, but it looks like defensemen have figured him out. Is he afraid of cutting to the inside and getting Kyle-d again?

Zed got off to a poor start this season, sitting out three weeks with a groin pull suffered in the first game. Perhaps it's just the lingering effects of this injury to a player that relies a great deal on his leg strength.

~~~

The Road Trip From Hell is over. The Habs went 2-4 and still sit in a playoff spot:

1/19 @CGY L 3-2
1/21 @VAN L 6-2
1/23 @CAR L 7-3
1/25 @PHI W 5-3
1/26 @OTT L 3-0
1/28 @TOR W 4-3


The record isn't that bad, considering the strength of the opposition they faced and the absence of Andrei Markov. The problem, and source of concern for the fans, is not that they lost, but how they lost. The opener in Calgary was an acceptable performance, but three of the next four were absolute stinkers.

Coming back from the Ottawa debacle to defeat the Leafs at home restored some confidence, but - let's face it - the Leafs aren't exactly a red-hot powerhouse right now, and it still took overtime to get the two points.

Now comes an easier stretch of the schedule, with the Habs playing five of the next seven at home, mostly against softer opponents. They have to make hay from now until the Olympic break.

~~~

The afternoon games on NBC turn the usual Saturday doubleheader on CBC into a tripleheader. That's a lot of hockey if you, like me, are unwilling to shell out for anything more than the basic cable package.

Alas, it looks like we will be stuck watching the Flying Red Rangers on every NBC game. I'm tempted to say something about the NHL shafting the small markets, but Bettman and the league are probably just relieved they're on a major network at all.

~~~

I just don't understand the Koivu bashing. He is the heart of the Canadiens, he is their most complete player, he is their leading scorer, and has the best plus/minus.

Koivu has 24 points at even strength. Jan Bulis is second with 21. Kovalev has 17, Ryder has 15, Ribeiro and Zednik have 10.

Most importantly, Koivu gives a full effort every shift of every game - just like the darling of the French media, Steve Begin. However, Saku does it for 19:27 per game against the league's best checkers, often nursing a hidden injury. Begin does it for 14:27 - which is still far more than most "energy" players, perhaps explaining why his performance has diminished lately.

As the captain, Koivu does have to be held accountable when the team is underperforming. But what does that mean? Should Koivu surrender the captaincy because Theodore and Kovalev are loafing? Of course not. All he can do is lead on the ice by giving a full effort - which he does. Off the ice he can try to extract a greater effort from his teammates, but how far does that go? Isn't that what coaches are for?

On top of all of this, he is underpaid. Theodore and Kovalev will both take home more than a million more than Koivu this season. Neither have contributed as much to the Habs this season, or over their careers.

Demands that Koivu be traded are way out of line. What this team needs is more Saku Koivus, not less. If Alexei Kovalev deserves $4.5M per year (which he doesn't, but that's the corner Gainey has painted himself into), then Saku Koivu deserves more.

3 Comments:

Blogger Adam said...

Great post.

I agree with your take on Koivu. What can the poor guy do when Theo is letting in beachballs?

Not sure what I think about the 'over the glass' rule. It's definitely a weak penalty, but I like the sheer entertainment value of seeing all the PP point frantically at the place where the puck went over the glass.

Maybe a one minute penalty instead of two?

1/31/2006 1:01 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Another good take on the puck-over-glass thing is here.

1/31/2006 3:04 PM  
Blogger Jeff J said...

"Maybe a one minute penalty instead of two?"

Heh. The ESPN boxscore calls it a hooking major.

2/01/2006 8:51 AM  

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