Saturday, May 01, 2010

Habs


Its funny how the playoffs go. There are always upsets. Some are not that surprising at all. Others are huge.

Montreal's upset of the Washington Capitals was one for the ages. Nobody saw this coming. My pool is fucked and I'm certainly not the only one. I'm in an under fifty pool (all players under fifty points are eligible, its not a draft) and I went heavy Caps figuring them to be heavy favourites to come out of the East, definites to make the Conference final.

No dice and I'm done.

Halak was terrific and he was lucky and regardless of how much of his success was luck he deserves credit for not cracking under the Caps' onslaught. His teammates hung in there and they cashed on the few chances they had and in the end that was it. The Caps threw everything they had at the Habs and while they deserved to win, in the end they did not. An absolute failure of a power play and mental gaffes like the two that led to Moore's goal in G7 did them in. A lot of folks called Green the goat on that one but his partner on the backend stopped skating and Moore went right by him to get that loose puck. Absolutely terrible.

The Habs aren't the Habs I grew up with. Back in the day they were the team, there was no other. On HNIC they were the club of choice for Saturday nights in Northern Ontario. We'd get the Leafs here and there (I saw the Sittler ten point game for example) but for the most part it was the dynasty from Montreal.

God I hated them as a kid. They never lost and that is almost a literal statement. And their fans? The absolute worst. If I had a nickel for every time I heard 'How many Cups?' as the end of an argument I'd be a wealthy man. Insufferable fuckers and that includes some of my best friends.

But when they moved Roy out the door then the Habs began their descent until they became just another franchise. No Cups in sixteen years. They have a glorious history but now they're just another club. A bit sad I think and I was actually happy to see them beat the Caps, something I never ever would have thought possible many years ago.

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Montreal v. Pittsburgh

Even with Markov in the lineup the Habs didn't have a shot in this one. With him out its going to go five games rather than six, which is what I would have thought originally. The Pens are the only club remaining of the three Eastern teams who I figured had a shot (Caps and Sabres) and just as they had a nice draw in the first round they have another one now. They're not the club they were last year but they're still deep enough that Montreal won't be able to handle them I think. And Crosby and his teammates are a little bit of a different challenge than Ovechkin and the Caps. A bit bigger, a bit more physical, a bit more of a team that creates chances off of the cycle. Montreal is smaller and I think that while guys like Gomez, Gionta, Plekanec and Cammalleri are definitely quality I don't think Montreal's got enough up front or on the backend (Bergeron!?) to hang in there with the Pens. As I said five games and then they're a pumpkin again.

Boston v. Philly

Boston got a break against Les Sabres when Vanek went down. Without two of their top six forwards in he and Hecht, Buffalo struggled to score and with Rask playing extremely well that was it for them. All credit to the Bruins though. Buffalo got a lot of leads and Boston just kept coming back. And now they are on to the next round and Savard has returned and suddenly things look good for a club that was probably not as bad as their record indicated.

I had a hunch about the Flyers but still went with the Devils. Philly had little problem with New Jersey but I think this is it for them for one reason - injuries. Gagne and Carter and Lapierre are all out and that's too much to overcome. Boston won't be intimidated and in Rask they have one of the best young goalies in the league. Philadelphia will hang in there but it will be the Bruins in six, maybe five. They just have a lot of depth up front and the Flyers can't match it. Too bad the Flyers aren't healthy, if they were it would probably be a terrific series. Oh well.

23 comments:

Lowetide said...

I hate the Habs, have since Orr. If the Habs are playing dirt, I cheer for dirt.

macaotim said...

My Dad hates the Habs...he vowed to speak French for an entire year if the habs won in the finals about 15 years ago.

After the Habs victory, my Dad refused to honor his word stating he learned his French in Paris and they wouldn't know what he was talking about in Montreal anyway!

Bruce said...

LT: Who'd you root for when the Habs played Central Red Army in 1975?

As an aside, if I were in Jacques Martin's shoes I would have started Price in Game 1 against Pittsburgh. I figured with only a day off between games, a new opponent, and the removal of the urgency that had come with three straight elimination games, that the Habs in general and Halak in particular would be ripe for the picking. So you start the other guy, hope like hell he steals one, and even if he doesn't you're coming back in Game 2 with a rested ace which will infuse some confidence into your whole group.

Creative? Somewhat.
Risky? Not really.
Pragmatic? Absofuckinlutely.

John Muckler did this exact thing in 1991 when he started Bill Ranford in Game 1 in L.A. after Grant Fuhr had just won a tough 7-gamer over the Flames. Oil lost that opener in OT, but bounced back with a rested Fuhr to take Game 2, and the series.

Now Montreal enters Game 2 with Halak's bubble burst and questions about who start this next game for goodness sake. I realize it goes against the grain to rest your meal ticket, but the poor bugger had already made 131 saves this week for goodness sake, and deserved a chance to catch his breath.

R O said...

I don't know why Halak's getting a pass here. I don't quite see how ~130 saves in 3 games exhausted him while ~90 saves in 2 games didn't. He's had two days to catch his breath. It's not like there's anyt conclusive evidence regarding the rlationship between goalie performance and workload.

I think the more plausible explanation is that the Hockey Gods suddenly found him unworthy. But, reverse narrating will rule the newspaper pages yet.

I never experienced the '70s Habs so I can cheer for them now under certain circumstances (against the Cuntnucks for instance).

Word verification: supeer

Bruce said...

RO: Oh yeah, I'm just giving him a pass. Did you watch the games?

Obviously you don't sub him out for Game 7 - at least I think it's obvious - but for a Game 1 that changes the equation, for me at least. I'm not even saying changing him improves their chance to win Game 1, but it does improve their chance to win the series, cuz now they're coming back with their ace in the hole as opposed to having seen him, rather predictably, blown out of the net in Game 1.

As for reverse narrating, I made that very comment about not starting Halak to Mrs. Bruce before Game 1 had started.

Meanwhile, there's "no conclusive evidence about goalie workload", but you firmly believe in the Hockey Gods? How scientific.

R O said...

Obviously you don't sub him out for Game 7 - at least I think it's obvious

I don't know why that was obvious. He'd faced 90+ shots in the previous two games, surely he was exhausted by whatever nebulous criteria we're using that day?

they're coming back with their ace in the hole as opposed to having seen him, rather predictably, blown out of the net in Game 1.

I don't even think you believe this Bruce. I don't think, if you had the opportunity, that you would have made a million house-or-nothing bets on it. Which is what I would have done if I thought it were "rather predictable"

Meanwhile, there's "no conclusive evidence about goalie workload", but you firmly believe in the Hockey Gods?

Luck is kind of a reasonable concept to apply to this kind of situation. And it so turns out that there is some evidence that luck actually does explains a lot of variation in certain aspects of hockey!

Reason, and evidence. Will ya look at that!

Bruce said...

I don't know why that was obvious. He'd faced 90+ shots in the previous two games, surely he was exhausted by whatever nebulous criteria we're using that day?

Yeah, right, the coach is going to take out the guy who was First Star with a bullet in Games 5 and 6 for an all-or-nothing Game 7. That's just stupid talk. The goalie and the team were tired, but they were out of options, so obviously you go with your best, especially when your best is deeply inside the heads of the opposition. To do otherwise would have been a firing offence, perhaps even before the game was over!

New series, new opposition, and a new set of options which include losing a game here or there. I'm not a betting man - and with good reason! - but the Habs loss in Game 1 was utterly unsurprising. For the first time in a week they were playing a game they didn't Have to win. The schedule-maker wasn't their friend (and still isn't, given the afternoon start today). There were relatively few things the coach could do about all that. Resting the goalie was one of those things. He chose to go with the hot hand, and it cooled.

It was also predictable that Detroit would lose Game 1, after winning Game 7 on the road and then having to play a new, rested opponent two days later. And DET only had one back-to-the-wall game, not three.

All I'm saying is that it's the coach's job to manage the series, not just each game as it comes. In my view Martin missed the boat on a very good option to limit the damage from an almost unwinnable Game 1. Your mileage may vary.

PS: I too believe in the Hockey Gods, aka luck, but it's a lot less tangible than goalie workload. There's not much evidence of what happens to goalies who face >150 shots in a week, because it virtually never happens. Martin had the opportunity to avoid it happening this time, too.

Black Dog said...

Bruce - an interesting idea but I think Martin would never consider it, just not his makeup.

And while I do think that Halak may have needed a rest I alao think that such a move would have started a firestorm of criticism. After being the star of such a huge upset, Halak starting the next sereis on the bench would have had everyone, including his players, questioning Martin. Don't think it would have worked.

I agree with the possibilty that physically and mentally Halak may need a break but I don't think Martin could have done it. Dance with the girl that brung ya and all that.

Bruce said...

BDHS: It worked out for Muckler in '91. Took some balls, but he did it, took the heat, and reaped the benfits.

The guys who didn't question it were the players, and I don't think Martin's would have either. Everybody else doesn't really matter.

R O said...

Sorry Bruce, don't buy it at all.

I mean I'm glad you're not making the dubious assertion that you know with confidence that a rested Price is better than a tired Halak. I mean we don't even know either of these goalies, really.

It's clear too that you think Halak is better than Price, and I won't belabor that point because recent history is what it is, but let's just say that we don't know who these goalies are yet. But we'll give you that for the benefit of the doubt for now.

But, when you go on to say MTL would have bettered their odds to win 4 of 7 games by losing game 1... that's just crazy talk. I mean the margins you gain from resting Halak would have to be astronomical to overcome the (perceived) disadvantage in starting Price. And those margins can't be that significant, after all you said yourself that you'd rather start a tired Halak in an elimination game.

How much exactly is there to gain by resting the poor fucker, then, that you don't lose in quantities because you have so little confidence in the backup?

If it looks like a narrative, and it smells like a narrative... it's probably a duck.

R O said...

Cuntnucks lose! Cuntnucks lose!

spOILer said...

Pat,

the other WAS defence was Carlsson. Far worse play than Green's, completely dogging it 6 feet behind his mark. If the Caps had been Central Red that night, Comrade Tikhonov would have him doing hard labour in the Gulag as we speak.

Black Dog said...

spOILer - yeah I thought it was Carlsson, Moore beat him badly but the kid wasn't even skating

Very poor

Bruce said...

R O: I don't deliberately lose Game 1, but I as a pragmatist I think it's likely that my team loses Game 1 under those circumstances. I actually think Price has an equal chance to steal Game 1, cuz he's the one fresh guy on the team, and it's not like he's Yann Danis or something, he's a real legit 1A.

Halak did bounce back with an excellent Game 2, so no harm done apparently.

I guess that John Muckler was a real innovator, given how prodigious hockey intellects like R O are still calling him out for a successful strategy, two decades later. :|

R O said...

R O: I don't deliberately lose Game 1, but I as a pragmatist I think it's likely that my team loses Game 1 under those circumstances. I actually think Price has an equal chance to steal Game 1, cuz he's the one fresh guy on the team, and it's not like he's Yann Danis or something, he's a real legit 1A.

I just don't know how you can square your reasoning with, well, your reasoning. Let me try and recap.

1.) Somehow you put so much importance on tiredness of goaltenders that you would rather start your #2 goalie in game 1, to gain a presumably material advantage in your rested #1 in games 2-7.

2.) And yet tiredness of goaltenders is not really that significant to you, because you'd rather start your tired #1 than your rested #2.

3.) And yet you claim that somehow your #2 could easily steal game 1 anyway, that's how much faith you have in him.

None of it makes sense, Bruce.

given how prodigious hockey intellects like R O are still calling him out for a successful strategy

Yeah Bruce, a strategy is good because it won a playoff series. Those Habs, they were the shit too right?

Bruce said...

Those were the Oilers, not the Habs, and they won two series starting on the road as the underdogs, just as the Habs are trying to do.

The logic is not that difficult, however now that you've entirely misrepresented it for at least the third time, I officially give up.

Calgary fans, sheesh! You can't even spell it out for them.

R O said...

Which part have I misrepresnted:

1.) You think tiredness is a big issue, a big factor in goalie performance.

2.) And you prefer a tired Halak over a rested Price in elimination games. No doubt, then, that you hold a rested Halak in much higher regrard that a rested Price, because you think rest is so very important for goaltenders.

3.) And yet you just said that Price is a 1A goalie almost as capable of stealing games as Halak. So clearly you think Halak and Price are close in terms of performance.

Which of these points did I misrepresent? The logic is difficult because it's not there.

Which is it Bruce? Are Halak and Price almost as good as each other, or not?

Lowetide said...

I think "goalie fatigue" is an extremely overrated item. Like batting average or some such.

Bruce said...

1.) You think tiredness is a big issue, a big factor in goalie performance.

I do when a goalie has faced 134 shots in 3 games, yes.

2.) And you prefer a tired Halak over a rested Price in elimination games. No doubt, then, that you hold a rested Halak in much higher regrard that a rested Price, because you think rest is so very important for goaltenders.

I think Halak is the better of the two, yes.

3.) And yet you just said that Price is a 1A goalie almost as capable of stealing games as Halak. So clearly you think Halak and Price are close in terms of performance.

I said I thought a rested Price might have a better chance than a tired Halak of stealing Game 1, and even if he didn't, the benefit would be to give Halak a break. After the supreme effort he gave to take down the Caps, I expected a let down in Game 1, and that's what happened.

Halak's GA since he returned to the Montreal crease: 1, 1, 1, 5, 1, 1

Guess which game I identified as the one I would have rested him.

Anyway, obviously we disagree, and obviously you are going to keep arguing with me forever, so why don't we just forget it. It was just an offhand observation for Christ's sake.

Black Dog said...

Yes please lets stop our fussing and fighting.

Life is very short and there's no tiiiiime, for ..... ;)

macaotim said...

Personally, I'd like you to continue fighting. I like fighting, but it's easier when others do it.

Fight Fight Fight

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