Saturday, 7 April 2012

Game Eighty-Two: Leafs v Habs

Is it true? Is it possible? Have we reached the finish line? Is the nightmare of disappointment now at an end? Is this finally, really the end?

It's been quite an experience. Blogging (just about) every single minute of every single Habs game during, no less, one of the worst seasons in the 103 year history of the Montreal Canadiens.

Is this to say the whole experience, the countless hours spent posting during the game, and researching in-between contests, was futile? Certainly not - the whole experience, much like running marathons (of which I do) was entirely gratifying. Especially when you reach that finish line, look back, and remind yourself that you just ran that whole damn thing by yourself.

And anyway, beside the win/loss record, which was entirely disasterous, this was almost certainly one of the weirdest seasons in Habs history. The pre-game coaching firings, the mid-game trades of out best players, the fanatical reactions to individual abilities to speak languages, the maddening and seemingly endless string of injuries, watching and commenting on this organization while it teared itself apart in ultra slow motion was utterly fascinating.

The fun won't stop after tonight. We have a very important draft coming up featuring a very high pick. We have the highest of management positions to be filled. We have many opportunities at hand to fill glaring voids, most of them on offense, this summer via the free agent market. It's going to be very interesting process to witness.

And really, this team has SO MANY critical pieces already in place, it is more than possible - one might go so far as to say probable, for this team to make the necessary moves to make it more than playoff contenders next season. There is plenty to be optimistic about.

So tonight!!! The last game, with some matters on the line. The Oilers can still catch us for 28th, assuming they beat the Canucks (a tall order) and we lose to the Leafs (an even taller order).

It seems as though everybody was at practice this morning. Moen! Gionta! Will they play tonight? Why the heck not! Let's have at least one game of what this team was supposed to be - with Markov quarterbacking the line.

I'm going to enjoy crossing that finish line. And take the summer off, and start all over again.

First Period:

- Oh, Toronto. 5-on-3 and you still find a way of allowing Plekanec to get a break for a goal? Sigh.

- I know Phaneuf is world class with a blistering shot, but some of the careless mistake he makes, it's no wonder that Leafs fans are certified.

- Leafs doing a relatively good job with possession, movement around the Habs zone is relatively efficient, but Canadiens defense giving Budaj solid protection.

- Desharnais line really zipping so far - nice to see that line pad their stats a bit before the night is done.

- St-Denis looking really good on the PK. I maintain the competition for that 7th D spot against Weber is his to lose this September.

- Pretty inelegant period. Special teams were quite dreadful. Going to be really difficult to lose to this Leafs team.

Second Period:

- What a terrible change by the Leafs defense, and Pacioretty with a sharp angle shot that really had no business going in. Habs extend their lead.

- Paciorety's score narrows the team goal scoring gap to one. Cole better get on his game.

- Toronto looks dreadful, especially in their own zone. Headless chicken routine. Painful to watch.

- Habs caught doing another pick. Do they practice this stuff? Do they know it's almost certainly going to get spotted and called every time?

- Budaj having a pretty solid night, but the difference in mobility between and and Price is night and day.

- Pacioretty of all players, with the hit of the night.

- Komisarek. It's really astounding to see how far he's fallen since getting lured over to Toronto. Totally uninvolved, barely competent - not sure if he's playing with some physical incapacity. He certainly looks like a guy with zero confidence. The Habs really dodged a bullet when their offer was declined in an attempt to resign.

- As much as it pains me to say this, Campoli's final five games of the schedule have been the best of his season. Still not good enough to possibly rationalize his return.

- Sorry Max, you can't kick them in. Woulda tied him with Cole.

- That Pacioretty near-miss wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for a fantastic block and pass by Markov to set up the shot. I'd love to see how far this team would go with an 80 game Markov season.

- Love that penalty by Subban. If you're going to take one, do it with style.

- St-Denis becoming a bit of a PK specialist, no?

- Rene Bourque demonstrating that when he actually tries, he can actually be effective.

- Leafs hooking and grabbing everything in sight. Finally the officials can no longer look the other way.

- Plekanec simply couldn't believe that he missed that shot into a gaping Leafs net (beautiful pass by Kaberle to set him up by the way).

- Subban takes the mantle for hit of the night. Leafs enraged but it was totally clean.

- Can I say this? Toronto is terrible. No way we could possibly lose this.

Third Period:

- Leafs come a stormin' to start the period, wonder if they got a talkin' to by Carlyle in the dressing room?

- And Pheneuf with a blast that draws the Leafs draw to within one.

- Leafs really pressing. Could see this tied up soon.

- Never mind. Cole with his 35th on another stopple close-in try. Habs on their way.

- I suppose there's satisfaction to be had from handing the Leafs their butts on a stick on the last night, but it'd going to cost us a precious draft pick lottery spot, and we're still not going to finish ahead of Toronto. Oh well.

- Really?? Staubitz scores the final Habs goal of the year? Seems fitting.

- Habs win!!! And 2011-12 is a wrap.

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