Thursday, January 21, 2010

On Laraque...

Today George Laraque was let go from the Montreal Canadiens. Gainey said he was unproductive and a distraction - Jacques Martin obviously didn't want to play him... and I guess they had tried trading him and couldn't waive him. So they bought him out.

The timing sucks. Its a terrible time in George's life to get fired, especially since its obvious teams are not exactly knocking down doors to get to him. Personally, I feel bad for him and wish him all the best.

But as far as a player goes, I gotta say George Laraque was not the kind of enforcer you need on a team. George is too much of a nice guy! He only fights the other heavy weights, plans and discusses his bout before hand, and would usually do nothing else after his fistycuffs -- even if he did get more ice.

"Its my job to fight," he'd be heard saying. So after his 1 fight he would stop playing hockey, letting the rest of the team do their job of winning the game... so why play him? Ever?

Teams didn't fear George Laraque - players feared fighting him, I guess. But he never got emotionally involved in a game - never crashed the net, stirred up the mix, or inspire the team with his play. He could have been like Moen or Kostopolus, but instead he would coast around, stay in the corners, and try and calm everyone down, instead of firing guys up. I almost never saw him come to the defence of a player - always showing up minutes later to go toe to toe with another toughy who had nothing to do with the original play that pestered our talented guys.

In short, Laraque was indeed a side show to the game - its just how he kind of evolved. Now if he was younger, coaches would be able to work with him to turn him into the new kind of tough guy the league has - someone who can bring energy to a game, cause havoc on the other team's defence, and make room for all them little guys on his team. Unfortunately, he is no spring chicken, and his injuries precluded him from training into the player he needs to be.

From a hockey fan stand point, I am glad to see him out. I never liked the signing to begin with, because just having a slugger on your team isn't gonna scare the sh!t disturbers like Ruutu and Avery and Downie - because George would never fight them anyway (too little). So he was pretty useless, especially since the coaches couldn't / wouldn't work with him.

But as a person, I liked George's "code of honour" -- and he showed some interest in being a reporter on the game: given his easy going personality and his passion, and he's bilingual, I think he would be a good addition to any reporting team.

So I am glad George Laraque is off the team. But I also hope to see him again soon, and see him stay in hockey in some capacity.

Good luck George, and good luck Habs.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why Does Price Look So Bad When Scored Against?

I made this statement Saturday night as I watched Price let in his goals against. For some reason, Almost every time Price gets scores on, it looks like its his fault - lazy, slow on the glove, out of position ... he almost always looks to blame.

I'm not alone: other Habs fans are echoing the sentiment with everything from "He's my favorite goalie, but I've lost confidence." to "He is no longer my favourite player - let down too many times."

Update: to support this, we have the Gazette saying "Price didn't look good on any of the goals" from Saturday v. The sens, and a headline saying "Don't blame Halak for 6-2 loss" - even though Halak let in at least 2 goals the trickled right through him.

Why? Why does Price evoke such a reaction, when other goalies let in all kinds of goals, good and bad, but people don't freak out?

I've got a few thoughts. (Is why I'm writing this, duh...) Ok:

Price is not an "Athletic" goalie. That's not to say he'd fat and out of shape, no no. But Price is not the kind of goalie that roles around after every save. He doesn't dive across the net or turn himself into a pretzel - and even when he does it rarely looks good. But, as a result, when goals go in against him, he looks at fault - as opposed to more dynamic goalies who are still trying to make the save, even though its over. Because Price looks frozen, it looks like a weak goal. In reality, no amount of flopping around like a fish is gonna help.

Price looks behind him if one slips by. Connected to the above comment, if a puck does get by Price he is usually frozen, and looking over his shoulder. Other goalies will look beat - never see the puck go by them, as it were. Watch other goalies and when one slips by, they are rarely looking over their shoulder as it goes by (even if its a rifle from the point) -- they are often looking into the play. Price knows when he's beat, and is sitting there looking at the puck go by him - much more often then other goalies. For some reason, the fact Price is watching the puck go in again gives the impression he could have stopped it, but failed - when in reality, he was beat like any goalie, he just knew it before anyone else did.

The weak glove. Ever since the Philly series (2008, where it looked like he was playing with a club for a catchers hand) it is "known" that Price has a weak glove. He can make tons of windmill saves with that glove - but every time a puck hits his mitt and rolls in (sometimes off his head) fans lose confidence in Price - in "the big game" - is that glove gonna be there? More like "HA! I knew he had a weak glove!" - a little harsh for every glove side goal that goes in.

The shoulder shrugs. After a lot of goals Price's reaction is to give a little shoulder shrug - as if deflecting blame. I don't think he is, mind you. I think he's saying "oh well, no big deal, I'll get the next one..." whereas other goalies seem to have more serious or competitive reactions. Is Price's reaction giving the fans the impression he's being flippant, as opposed to taking the game seriously?

These are just perceptions! I've never met Carey price and I have never heard anything from someone who knows him confirming or denying any of this. Its just perception - but for fans, perception is everything. Halak lets in tons of terrible goals, but fans don't hold them against him. I'd say that for every starting goalie - except in Toronto.

Goals go in. They have too. Price isn't as goofy and sloppy as he looks sometimes - its his reactions which are driving our perceptions.

But, in the end, the best way to get fan confidence is to win lots of games. That's the bottom line.

Terrible weekend!

Man, what a bad week for the Habs, and an abysmal weekend. Although they did manage a win against Dallas, they lost 3 "two-point" games (conference) against New Jersey, Ottawa, and the Rangers. And through the week, they just kept getting worse.

The NJ game they had a great game and were unlucky in overtime. Price shook off a terrible start to win the game against Dallas, and came out stinky against Ottawa. Halak looked equally shaky, and was the victim of terrible defensive play - odd man rushes, d-men getting out muscled and out-played.

I made the comment that Gainey paid for leadership and competitive attitude this summer: getting Stanley Cup winners and big goal scorers. Well, when the pressure was on in Ottawa, the Habs were a no-show. And things absolutely collapsed in New York.

Sad to see. When the Habs lose, its because they play a bad, disorganised, disheartened game. When the Leafs lose, its not for the lack of trying - the Leafs usually out shoot their opponents, put lots of pressure on, and make an exciting game (they just can't keep the puck out of their net.) But the Leafs show up almost every night -- if the Habs showed up every night, we probably wouldn't be once again slogging it out for scraps at the playoff table.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Almost back online!

Apologies to everyone for being offline for so long - the new baby is here and cute and healthy. Mom is recovering well, and our oldest is stoked to have a new brother. I am still getting used to juggling 2 kids - but I hope to be back a-tweeting games soon!

Some random thoughts from over the hiatus:

World Juniors
It was a pretty fun tournament, but Canada was in a pretty light division - so we didn't get to see a lot of Russia and Sweden and Finland. The New Years Eve match between Canada and the US was pretty dang exciting, and Canada were lucky to win; the gold medal match was even crazier - and just about the perfect hockey game - the incredible heroics in the last 3 minutes really made the loss seem irrelevant. I mean, I'm sad we lost, but to come back like that was way more memorable then the outcome. And (shoot me for saying so) I think Team USA was the more talented bunch - so they deserved their victory. That's not to say Canada wasn't talented, obviously they were, but it seemed to me that the US was a little faster, and a little more flashy. Anyhow, it was really close either way.

And I was introduced (through the miracle of Television) to Habs no. 2 draft pick, Kristo. What a player he is!

Les Canadiens
I thought Halak was starting to look really tired, and was frustrated that Martin was sticking with him. Of course then Price got in there and went 1-2 (including the game v. Washington) so what do I know. I really really like the way the lines are stacked right now (it would be nice to get AK47 back for sure.) I am almost amazed when we lose; I think we have 4 perfect forward lines, all of them capable of being dangerous, and I would like to see them generate some success before Martin flips like the proverbial fast-food hamburger he is. I know I'm stuck with Martin for 3+ years, and he brings a stabalizing presence behind the bench, but I still don't have to like him.

Around the NHL
The Winter Classic was a pretty fun game, despite the score. And I continue to suck in my hockey pool, as every player I pick up to replace a failing member turns to ash. My Death Touch has single handedly ruined the promising career of so many this season, I really should send out flowers to these players: Mark Streit, Steve Mason, Anze Kopitar, Alec Kotalik, Matt Carle, and oh the so many others...

Happy 2010 all, and I hope to see you in the twitter-verse very soon!