Saturday, December 19, 2009
Markov, ready as ever. (photo taken from rds.ca)
posted by habsbloggergirl
To be honest, I’m a little scared for this game. Terrified actually.
This is the day that our defensive star returns after missing 35 games. It’s the game that can become the 6th in a series of losses, or the 1st in (hopefully) a streak of wins. It’s against the Islanders, who have somehow caught up to us in the standings, but are ahead due to their game in hand. We sit in 12th, only ahead of Philadelphia, Toronto and Carolina.
The past few games have been grim at best. With little secondary scoring, Plekanec, Cammalleri and Kostitsyn are dragging this club along, and Plekanec is particular (due to his heroics on the PK) is showing signs of exhaustion. Our defence as a whole is mediocre (if that), and with the loss of the Hamrlik, we’re pretty subpar. We have taken an enormous amount of penalties. To win our goalies have had to have been incredible, but lately they have only been good. Not their fault, it’s hard to be perfect, and with scores like 3-1 and 2-1 in the past two games, perfection would have been the only way for us to win. We know this, and have been going over and over it for a few weeks. It has been extremely frustrating, and the only possible solution is that someone, or rather some people, need to step up.
On L’antichambre the other day, they said that someone needs to get mad in the locker room. Although that may be one solution, most of our team doesn’t fit that role. Perhaps a better one would be for someone to step up and play their heart out on the ice. Now I’m not talking about those mentioned so far. Plekanec et al. do it every night. I’m talking about Maxim Lapierre, Matt D’agostini, Max Pacioretty... The young guys really haven’t been bringing much to the table lately. I’m also talking about Scott Gomez and Marc-Andre Bergeron. Honestly, most of the team has been a bit off lately.
Markov leads on the ice, no question. But we can’t expect miracles from him. He’s just one player (albeit one player who can affect the course of a game). I’ve always been a bit jealous of Pittsburgh, Washington, LA... with guys like Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kopitar... it’s a little frustrating that they were rewarded for playing badly, but that’s beside the point. They have these “franchise players”... amazing talents. In Montreal, it seemed like we never had one of those uber-talented stars. But I realize that Markov IS in their league, and am quite thankful that we still have him. When Bob Gainey blew up the team this summer, this is one piece I’m thrilled he kept intact. He may not have been 1st overall in the draft (actually it’s a bit unbelievable that he was still around in the 6th round!), but his play in the past 8 years has shown otherwise.
Whether he has a great game or doesn’t, I’m thrilled to finally have him back, because honestly the Habs haven’t felt like the Habs without him. I’m still member of the Markov for captain fan club, and I think no one would do a better job. I also think we need a captain ASAP. At the beginning of the season, when Jacques Martin said not having a captain would work, I knew it was a bad idea. There are a lot of leaders in the room, yes, but without one clear leader, it’s hard for the others to organize themselves. If everyone stepped up in the room it would be too chaotic, and so, though many may want to, no one does, and nothing gets done. Captains exist for a reason, and with our lacklustre performance this season, you’d think Martin would realise that. It won’t solve all our problems, but at least we’d be going in one direction instead ten different ones.
I think we can pull it off tonight. Ending the losing streak now would keep our confidence levels from hitting rock bottom. Markov’s return should give them some form of fuel, and hopefully he can make a difference in the game.
On that note, I’d like to wish him a very happy (early) 31st birthday, and good luck tonight! We’re probably going to need it.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Hamrlik doing what he does best: Keeping talented players from scoring goals. (Photo taken from habsinsideout.com)
posted by habsbloggergirl
Every year we think we have it bad injury-wise. Players drop like flies on a daily basis. Last year was out of the ordinary in that department for the Habs, but it almost seems like this year is going to top it.
We have not been having an easy time, starting from day one when Markov went down. We lost (in my opinion) the most important player on the team, and although we did have other capable defenseman, losing Markov was heartbreaking. We not only lost a great player, but a leader, and someone who is greatly respected among his teammates and the fans.
However, our remaining defensemen have played incredibly hard to make up for Markov’s absence. In fact, I doubt anyone would disagree with me when I say that Roman Hamrlik is the Canadiens’ unsung hero thus far. He logs an unbelievable amount of minutes for a 35-year-old, and he plays as though he’s 10 years younger than he is, but with the added bonus of wisdom and the fact that he makes very few mistakes, if any. He almost seems to know what’s going to happen before it does, and he’s arguably the best 1-on-1 defenseman we have. He has a calm demeanour on the ice that most others do not, and you can tell he thinks things through very carefully before he does them, but never hesitates either. Without him, I honestly believe we would be lost; another season down the drain.
It’s strange to me that when Jacques Martin initially picked his alternate captains, he didn’t include Hamrlik among them. But I suppose there are a lot of leaders on the team, and it was a tough decision. It’s strange to think that of the three he chose (Markov, Gionta and Gill), all three are, or were in the case of Gill, injured. Now that Cammalleri wears an “A”, I often worry that he may eventually suffer the same fate (though obviously I seriously hope nothing will ever happen!!). If Hamrlik is the defensive hero, then Cammalleri and Plekanec are the offensive ones, having really dragged this team to their current position in the standings. In fact, it irks me that Gomez’ lack of production is being rewarded by an inexplicably high salary, when Plekanec, who is making about 1/3 of what Gomez is, has more than double the amount of points. And I doubt we’d be able to get rid of Gomez at this point, because honestly what team in their right mind (other than us apparently) would take on a 70-point-per-year player for $8 million a season?
Anyway, another positive this season is goaltending. Now I know that there are A LOT of Halak haters and Price haters out there, and this bothers me to no end. They are BOTH good goaltenders. They BOTH have the confidence of their coaches and teammates. They clearly get along and work well together, motivating each other along the way. So we need to deal with the fact that they BOTH play for Montreal. I don’t understand why everyone seems to think it needs to be one or the other and that there are no other options. People keep talking about what’s best for Carey or what’s best for Jaro... Personally I think what’s best for them is that everybody stop fighting over which one is better than the other... AND I don’t understand why everyone thinks that we SHOULD be thinking about what’s best for either of them in the first place! Instead we should be thinking about what’s best for the TEAM (which they are currently BOTH a part of). They have each done a lot for the team this season, and without them we would not be where we are.
My favourite thing about the 2009-2010 Canadiens is that they rarely go down without a fight. Yes, there has been the occasional blow out game, but most of the time each player plays their little heart out every night or at least gives some effort – something we haven’t always seen in the past. I miss a lot of the 2008-2009 Habs: Koivu, Kovalev, Higgins, Lang, TK. They were good guys, and I especially missed Saku at the centennial celebrations the other night. But, I think we have finally started to move on, and that this group of mismatched misfits is finally starting to forge an identity, something they may have been missing for most of this season. Good things happen in cohesive groups, and hopefully when Markov returns (which I’ve recently heard may be sooner than we thought) we’ll be fighting for our playoff spot (or division title, who knows! Buffalo is only 6 points ahead of us), and showing the rest of the NHL that Gainey’s so-called “chemistry experiment” worked.