The playoffs are almost here: get greedy!

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    Rocket:

    In advance of the game against Ottawa, most of the pre-game talk was naturally about the injuries to Koivu, Bouillon, Streit, and to a lesser extent, Komisarek. P.J. Stock gleefully crowed “The Habs are done!” Tony Marinaro had a defeated tone and conceded “It was a great season”. Some Canadiens fans seemed to lower their expectations based on who was out of the lineup.

    The game plan for Ottawa seemed to be designed to ensure that the Canadiens did not lose (rather than to win – there’s a difference). One week before, the talking point was about showing the Senators less respect. So why the change?

    I was thrilled to see the Canadiens clinch the division. So why was I feeling a little uncomfortable after the game? I suppose it was the way that they won. It was gritty. It was grinding. It was mucky. And yes, it definitely wasn’t pretty.

    Some seem to think that’s the style of play that the Canadiens will need to win in the playoffs. I don’t. Mainly because it’s a type of game that doesn’t fit with the personality of this year’s edition of the young, exciting Montreal Canadiens. Honestly, does anyone believe that the Habs can progress through the playoffs playing smash mouth hockey?

    And why would they? Teams throughout the league are intimidated by the Canadiens…but it’s the speed that they fear. The Habs can dominate when they play to their strengths: effectively use their speed, quick transitions, puck pressure and good movement.

    So I suppose after the Ottawa game, I wasn’t feeling completely satisfied. It has been a great season, but I want more. I really believe that this team has the potential to deliver. So it bothers me when I hear someone say “it WAS a great season”. And it bothers me when others say ‘enjoy it while it lasts, they aren’t supposed to be here anyway’. That kind of attitude assumes that there is some grand plan and it isn’t the Habs turn.

    In sports, teams take advantage of opportunities whether its ‘their time’ or not. It wasn’t their time in 1993 but the Habs took advantage of an opportunity (what about Edmonton 2 years ago?). I happen to think that this edition of the Canadiens has far more talent than ’93.

    The funny thing is that there is a group of players on this team that don’t know that they aren’t supposed to win yet. And if Guy Carbonneau was a good coach, he wouldn’t tell them (yet he is fond of saying that the team has progressed ‘beyond the curve’). Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn, Ryan O’Byrne, Maxim Lapierre, Mikhail Grabovski, and Carey Price won a Calder Cup championship last year. They are winners and seem to believe that they are part of a team that can win again.

    In a recent interview, coach Kirk Muller said that Carey Price has a ‘to-do list’. On a figurative list that includes things like fishing, Price feels that the natural next thing to do is win the Stanley Cup. It’s just that matter-of-fact.

    Don’t get me wrong. I loved the win in Ottawa. But, let’s face it. The Senators are in free-fall in the standings and they are a mess on and off the ice. I would have rather that the Canadiens came out and played their brand of hockey and completely dominated the Sens.

    Was it a statement game? I think that one Hab made a statement: Carey Price. Despite some breakdowns (that could have allowed the Sens right back into the game) Price confidently sent a message via his play that the Sens weren’t going to beat him.

    This is Carey Price’s team and he is very quietly leading the Canadiens. Huet who? Oh sure, Huet is an upgrade over Kolzig (who wouldn’t be?) for the Capitals and he is making his 18 saves a game. But Price has the makings of an elite-level goaltender and one who can inspire a team with his level of play.

    The other statement coming out of the Ottawa game is that the Canadiens players are a tight knit group, none of the divided locker room murmurs of the past. And without question, the Montreal Canadiens have character, in abundance. Sorry P.J., but your statements are simply idiotic. This is a team that stands up for one another: Look at what Sergei Kostitsyn did with Chris Neil. How about Mathieu Dandenault came out of the press box and playing at a high level? Tom Kostopoulos is a excellent team guy. Carey Price steps in for a fan favorite and through his play wins them over. And who can argue that Saku Koivu is a person with incredible fortitude to come back after what he has conquered in his life. This is a team with character.

    In the recent past, as Canadiens fans, we have gotten used to settling for baby steps: happy that the Habs squeaked into the last playoff spot; enjoying a win or two in the first round, etc. But something happened this year. The 2007-08 edition of the Canadiens hit a nerve that has been buried awhile. I guess I’m greedy again. I recall the days of the Canadiens as a winner and I want more.

    Through the year, I have seen that this team can dominate when it plays its game. My expectations have been raised when I see signs of their potential. I may not have celebrated wildly the 1 win against Ottawa because now this very exciting and talented team has me focused: the type of game that they must play to get 16 wins once the playoffs begin.

    1 COMMENT

    1. Rocket, Couldn’t have said it better myself. There is something special about this team I haven’t seen in a while. While 93 was a successful year it wasn’t like this. This team reminds me of the Flying Frenchmen days. Where they won based on “you can hit me if you can catch me”, and very few teams can carch them. You can see it in Ales Kovalev’s play, he is having fun out there. And I agree with the point on Price, this is his team now, if there was any doubts in the mind of the players it is gone now. The celebration at games’ end is a treat they all have fun together knocking off helmuts, jostling Price’s mask, old and young players, just having fun.
      I don’t know if they will go all the way this year, I hope they do, but the west looks real tough and they didn’t fair too well when they went out there, but I know they will go far and this will be a character builder for the younger core players.

      P.S Neither of the Kostitsyn bros played in the Calder cup playoffs, Sergie was in London in OHL playoffs, Where Andrei was injured and didn’t go down. his stats in NHL.com show playoff stats in Hamilton for 2005 only none for 2007. This seems to be a common mistake made by many bloggers and media people.

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