Saturday, October 09, 2010

Meeting At The New Igloo:

A Preview

A preview for Game 2. As before, we steer clear of lines and pairings and other news from Brossard and look to more important things for this match-up with the Penguins.


Key match-ups

Crosby and Plekanec
In May, Halak handed the penguins their walking papers, but it was Plekanec who handed Crosby his lunch. The Stanley Cup champ was hounded and humbled to a single goal and a minus contribution to his team. Though I'm sure we're all very worried that Letang is motivated by hate, it's Crosby's dislike of Plekanec that might be of most interest. Plekanec is ready for the season as always and is probably more than ready to replicate his form.


Fleury and Price
Two goalies who started young. One has won a Cup and so is held up as a standard for the other. Both had average numbers in 2009-10, both are looking to get above 0.900 in save percentage this year. Should be interesting to see who makes the important stops.


Letang and Subban
Two young offensive defencemen ready to accept new roles on their teams. I'm actually more interested to see if Letang's hatred can help him to defend a Subban rush.


Cooke and O'Byrne
Matt Cooke has a lot to answer for with Josh Gorges. When Matt Cooke injured Andrei Markov, it was a chance for Martin to humiliate Ryan O'Byrne by choosing to bench him in the playoffs. To start this season, O'Byrne has to suffer playing with Picard because Markov's injury lingers on, and when Markov returns will probably have lost his job to Picard. Man, he must want to pummel Cooke. Cooke, of course, doesn't know O'Byrne because the 6'5" Dman is usually hiding when the rough stuff that Cooke instigates gets under way.


Momentum

Backwards. Both teams have opened their seasons with losses. Both teams made their goalies look beatable. And both teams stars were on for important goals against. The Penguins were expected to storm and now might be downgraded to cruise through the East. The Habs didn't win when they could've, should've, would've.

On the bright side, there are no ties in the NHL anymore, so someone will get a win.


Penguins the Habs covet

Sydney Crosby
Makes things happen all on his own. He could probably even make a scorer out of a Pouliot with disinterested positioning.

Maxime Talbot
A French Canadian sure thing. He's like the Lapierre who doesn't take half seasons off. This Canadiens management would dearly love a player like Talbot.


Habs the Penguins covet

Mike Cammalleri
A winger.

Brian Gionta
A winger.

Andrei Kostitsyn
A winger.

Benoit Pouliot
A winger.

Tomas Plekanec
Can play wing.


Ready-made excuses

Michel Therrien's not in either city anymore, so honest indictments of goalies are unlikely after this one. More likely, one of these excuses for a loss:

If Montreal lose:
- Markov is injured
- Crosby plays for them
- French Canadian goalies always shut us out
- We played Thursday
- Our defensive strategy relies on a lot of luck, sorry

If Pittsburgh lose:
- We're tired from delivering season tickets all day
- We thought Paul Martin would mask all our defensive deficiencies
- Fleury is still young
- They forced us to play the puck to wingers


Impact of this result

Pittsburgh will make the playoffs this year, so this game is for positioning. The impact of a win or a loss is little really, since the President's trophy is meaningless and playoff winning will depend so much more on which wingers are added at the trade deadline than those playing tonight.

If Price loses again, I think there will be some kind of exorcism, as he will start to believe there's a cloud over him again and thereby resign to not moving his left arm all season. If the Habs win, all will be forgotten and euphoria will sweep the city until the next practice when lines are revealed.

On a serious note, Pouliot is on thin ice. As coaching decisions are made on a shift-by-shift basis in this city now, he must out-perform Eller tonight or start seriously considering community college.

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