News for Wednesday, December 19th

The news focuses on the Habs listless loss to the Panthers last night. It's a little depressing to read, but the tone of the reporting is not nearly as dire as it was a week ago, at the tail-end of a five game losing streak.

The legendary Red Fisher deploys his patented sarcastic/Socratic style, posing sharp questions which he himself answers with pointed wit. He points out that the 3-2 score shouldn't be taken as indicative of the closeness of the contest, and fingers the Panthers speed as the major reason for the loss. Hey, aren't we always hearing about the Canadiens fast players and great team speed? Fisher also points out Florida's advantage in shots (23-12) and giveaways (6-16) between the two teams during the first two periods. Finally, Red wonders aloud if Captain Saku Koivu will be suspended for a blindly-thrown cross-check that caught someone in the face. Answer: most likely.

Pat Hickey gives a tip of the hat to the Panthers for being the only NHL team with a winning life-time record against the Canadiens. How they have managed to achieve this is hard to say, given that the Panthers have sucked even harder than the Habs in the years since they came into the league. Luongo, Belfour, and now Tomas Vokoun seem able to stone the Habs at will. Speaking of Vokoun, he took advantage of another opportunity to remind the team that drafted him that they blew it. Vokoun used to play in the AHL in Fredericton, where I attended university, in a tandem with Jose Theodore. He routinely outplayed the over-hyped former "saviour" of the team, as I liked to point out on the alt.canadiens usenet site, even though no-one cared. Well, no matter what he did, there was no chance that anyone but Theodore was getting a shot with the big club, and Vokoun was eventually let go ... though not before being left for dead by coach Mario Tremblay in a first-period barrage by the Philadelphia Flyers. As Hickey notes, the Flyers victimized him for four goals in what turned out to be the only game Vokoun ever played for the Habs. Wow, did that Tremblay have a way with goalies, or what? Anyway, Vokoun was very polite, saying that he remains grateful to the Canadiens for giving him his first chance, but really, if your only memories of playing with the Habs have Mario Tremblay at their centre, how grateful could you really be?

We all make mistakes: that seems to be Carbo's shrugging reaction to the loss last night, as Pat Hickey (again! the man is busy!) reports. The biggest mistakes of the night belonged to Carey Price, who made a beautiful centering pass to the Panther's Brett McLean for the game's second goal, and who absolutely whiffed on a long, slow slapshot by Stephen Weiss that eventually won the game for the Panthers. Interestingly, no one - from the press, to the coach, to the rookie goalie who helped cough this one up - seems to be taking the loss too hard. Hickey quotes Price thus: "We could have played better; I could have played better. Now, we have to go out and get some wins on the road." That's probably the right spirit.

In Journal de Montreal, Marc de Foy also discusses the mystery that is the Panthers supremacy over les Canadiens. He quotes Mike Komisarek as saying something along the lines of, "We might have been overconfident after winning a couple of big games" («On pèche peut-être par excès de confiance après avoir disputé de gros matchs»). I must say that it didn't appear to be a case of too much confidence from my point of view; if it was, then the Canadiens' confidence must be less fragile than we are led to believe, so obviously undeserved any such confidence was. De Foy is also of the opinion that Carey Price was sub-par on this night. For once some concensus between the French and English press.

Also le Journal, Pierre Durocher has a piece on the frustration of Saku Koivu's countryman, Panthers forward Olli Jokinen. While Koivu has grown impatient waiting for a chance to win a Stanley Cup, Jokinen hasn't even seen the playoffs. Perhaps someone should find a way to get these guys together, and kill two birds with the proverbial one stone? Dare to dream.

Marc Antoine Godin of La Presse reports on the game, going to Coach Carbonneau for the straight dope:
«On a joué deux minutes, a avoué Guy Carbonneau après le match. On n'était pas prêts à travailler. On n'a pas voulu frapper, on n'a pas voulu se faire frapper, on n'a pas patiné.» Is it fair to say that the Habs only played two minutes, or that they didn't hit, skate, or work? Yes. It is. He also quotes Chris Higgins as saying that the Habs are a team that must apply pressure, force mistakes, and avoid errors of their own, because they don't have any true snipers.

Also note this La Presse article, which has Guillaume Latendresse sounding a little ticked off at being left out of the line-up against Florida:
«J'étais prêt (à jouer). C'est facile de voir que je suis déçu ... C'est la première fois que je vis ça. Je faisais ce qu'on me demandait de faire, je travaillais fort. C'est la décision de l'entraîneur. Je n'y peux rien» (I was ready to play, it's easy to see I'm disappointed, I've done everything that's been asked of me. It's the coach's decision, there's nothing I can do). Aw, poor Gui! As to why he didn't suit up, Carbo explains that he simply didn't want to mess with success, having won two games with the same line-up: «Tout le monde méritait de rejouer» (Everyone deserved to play again). Fair enough, given the amount of flak Carbo has taken this season for juggling his lines and line-ups from night to night; I was glad to see him stick with a roster for once, personally.

Finally, see Four Habs Fans for a humorous take on the game in an article called, "We Now Return You to our Regularly Scheduled Sucking". Laughter is indeed the best medicine ... no, wait, that's scotch. Scotch is the best medicine. But laughter is a close second.

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