Maybe it’s just that I threw out my back and have spent the last couple of days in bed watching Game of Thrones and hockey, but the two things are starting to conflate in my head and I feel the need to spend a few minutes making a pompous salute to these Habs that Ottawa dispatched last night.
His hissy fits and alpha-male demonstrations became more a distraction by game three, but seeing what Subban can do, I can appreciate the difficulty of balancing the detrimental effects of that ego with how inextricably that ego is tied to performance. Subban gets pumped up, and he largely backs it up with Norris-worthy offensive play. The two things are dependent, really. But combined with other volatile personalities, like Michel Therrien, you can see the mixture becoming counterproductive. One gets the feeling that the burgeoning rivalry between these two clubs will center around the young defenceman. I’m looking forward to the teams’ next meeting, if only to see what he’ll do. It’ll either be a brilliant performance, or his head will explode.
If there’s anyone whose stock dropped during this series, it must be Therrien, who was not only outmaneuvered on the ice by Paul MacLean, but became a distraction to his team and a rallying cry for the opposition. He epitomized the characterization of the Habs as over-sensitive, entitled, and unprepared for the physicality of playoff hockey. The problem with the whole “they have no class or respect” tactic–if it was indeed a tactic to get his team fired up–is that you can only really play that card once, maybe twice. After that you’re just making excuses.
I said earlier in the year that the Canadiens wouldn’t be as bad as last year–how could they be with Markov back full time, another year’s development for their young players, a host of veterans, and an all-start goalie? Therrien deserves some credit, but I think his Jack Adams credentials were overstated, and in this series he showed himself the lesser between he and MacLean. Maybe Therrien is best thought of as a coach who gets a team back on track after years of underperformance, only to be replaced when the team is ready to get over the hump.
What a pitbull this kid is. Obnoxious, sure; a borderline player, full of greasy goals and provocation, definitely. Basically, he’d look great as a member of the 2012-2013 Senators.
He deserved better than this series. Price looked like a man on an island most nights. I think he’s a quality player, possibly a top five goaltender in the league, but he was hung out to dry by his team on some of those goals. Imagine what he could do behind an even stodgier defensive system, without the injuries on the backend, and without the distractions of the Montreal market. He’d look great in Anaheim.
All them others
Even with the injuries, Montreal looked like a team with enough depth on paper to have better luck than they did. Bourque and Galchenyuk looked good, as did the players mentioned above, but looking at the box score to yesterday’s game I’m surprised to see that Michael Ryder actually played. I didn’t even notice him. (You have to wonder if Bergevin is rethinking that Cole trade about now.) I’ve often thought that Plekanec was an underrated top centerman, but he was largely invisible this series. That defensive corp was good at moving the puck and establishing a presence in the Ottawa zone, but couldn’t compete with Ottawa’s physical play. This group underperformed at a time of year when motivation should never be a problem.
Ultimately, the pundits will look at their division crown and pick them to finish much higher next year, and Montreal has an intriguing mixture of veterans and good young players that you’ll see them compete. In a seven game series, it doesn’t take much to tip it one way or another, and Montreal was outplayed, had bad luck, and got down early. These things happen; they’ll be back.