It was a weekend of typical winter activities. I hit up an outdoor rink after my shift ended; I hadn’t been on skates in years. In seasons past each time I would pass by an outdoor rink I would say “I’ll try to this winter.” Well, I finally did, and the ice was smooth, my skating crisp. It was merely the practice pond at Jeanne Meance park, but next to me was a game of pick up hockey.
There were about 20 of them, all ages, taking turns playing shifts in possibly the longest game of the day. Stickwork chippy, rosy cheeks and second wind. Even a few girls joined into what used to be an “only boy’s” game; hockey has now become everyone’s game.
There was a boy in a Canadiens jersey, it was once a #11 Koivu jersey but the boy took a felt tip marker and turned it into a #21, Gionta jersey. I figure everyone on that rink and all rinks around Montreal pretend to be Gionta, Markov, or even Carey Price.
At another rink, there was a little kid in a Price shirt, if this were last season I figure he would have been begging for a Halak jersey. No, everyone wears whoever is in the lineup (or have converted an old shirt into new). Win or lose, Montreal is still following the Habs.
We were surprised with the first half of the season. Merely a couple points between Montreal and our main rivals the Boston Bruins, which can either give the Habs home ice or a meeting with one of the teams we caused havoc to last playoff run. Of note, Carolina could be the spoiler if we don’t keep up the pace.
Again inconsistency has been the killer. Some nights we just have the drive to win such as the the comeback VS Boston and the New York Rangers earlier this week. But then there was the rematch against Pittsburgh. What looked like a promising start ended in four power play goals by the Penguins and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury striking a pose back at Carey Price.
So which Montreal Canadiens team will show up next? The one that will do whatever it takes to win or a team that completely collapses. The team is young and inexperienced, I’m learning new names each game and trying to figure out if they have what it takes between now and when the snow melts.
It’s up to the kids to pick up the slack, for rookies and unknowns to become heroes.
PK Subban, Yannick Weber, Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais. They furthered their development in Hamilton but now in the spotlight it’s time to overcome that learning curve.
The defense has big shoes to fill, with Markov and Gorges out for a indefinite amount of time. PK and Weber have no choice but to develop now. These guys have talent and can add depth, even PK who had to deal with the benching backlash is looking better every game. The kid still has a good attitude but now has garnered a reputation amongst NHL pests. Trash talk means they fear what he may do when he gets his full footing in the NHL.
Scary what the blue line can become, luckily Wisniewski has been a great addition to the group, less pressure for the kids and inspiration for the veterans.
Scoring has been a concern, Cammalleri has been flu ridden as of late. Normally one of the few Habs consistently scoring, the Habs can’t wait for him to recover. Kostitsyn has been on a scoring drought and I’m slowly losing hope in Eller. The kid is trying but also keeps taking needless penalties. Could we add more confidence to his balanced diet?
There has been a different guy each night playing hero, my gut says Pacioretty will be someone to look for in the second half. He did lead in Hamilton, he will eventually do it for the Habs (maybe after he gets over the flu).
I remembered watching the world junior championships. Team Canada would pick their best and it would take a week for them to put together a contender. We’re halfway into the season and we’ve only seen glimpses of either potential or pure sh*t.
The Canadiens have several members of former Canadian world junior’s teams, I figure they know what it’s like to play under this kind of pressure. Carey Price has been doing this for a long time, he has full right to strike a pose.
I thought about that pickup game, how each player would do something in a short time but it would help the game. It’s exactly how Montreal has been playing. There have been mistakes but luckily, when we were good in October and November the points we picked up have given us some breathing room. But maybe this is what Montreal is meant to play like. To play “crazy, fast pace, do whatever we can to get the win” kind of hockey.
To pretend to play like the legends and the superstars of their past. To pass the puck and cause a scrap. To do whatever it takes and have a good time doing it.
It’s scary to watch half the time but you know what, I’m still watching.
Photos by (Pierre Obendrauf / THE GAZETTE)