Still Think the Habs are Cup Contenders?
I was born in 1979 and I feel it is important to drop a “when I was young” adage on my loyal readership (105.5 average readers in 2021).
When I was young, I had to wait until the newspaper was delivered to my house so I could read the latest in NHL news. I remember waiting with anticipation after school to get the paper and flip to the sports section. There would be a blurb on the NHL scores from the night before and as long as the Habs did not play anywhere west of Toronto, the actual score would be in the paper..
Then I would wait until Saturday night at 8:00pm for Hockey Night in Canada and hope they would show the Habs game in english. Unfortunately, we lived in the Leafs’ region (as did 99% of Canada) so I would have to watch Leafs vs North Stars where John Kordic and Basil McCrae would get into 3 fights before either team realized the game started.
As I got older, I demanded to watch the Habs. Unfortunately, my father absolutely refused to watch the Habs in french so, as an 8 year old, I would take the portable RCA 14” into the basement to watch the Habs. That TV weighed more than me, but I was determined. I had to aim the bunny ears towards Aurora Borealis in the hopes of watching the french CBC. If the weather was perfect, I could watch the Habs play the Bruins where Chris Nilan and Lyndon Byers fought 3 times before either team realized the game started.
If you can relate to any of the nonsense I just offered you, then you grew up in an era where we learned how to wait. We did not expect instant results, next-day deliveries, or electronic mail. We were taught to earn our stripes and that it takes years to eat at the adult table. Furthermore, we would wait a little longer than 10 games to anoint any team as the best in the NHL.
All this to say, can we slow the hell down and let the Habs of 2021 play more than 12 games before we crown them as Stanley Cup contenders?
I was listening to TSN 690 on Thursday and the morning show was predicting how many goals the Habs would beat the Senators by on Thursday night. (The expert panel agreed that 3 goals was a good margin.) After the 3-2 loss, all the “experts” were claiming they foresaw the trap game and were certain the Habs would blow the doors off the Senators on Saturday afternoon. Great call, fellas! It took a herculean effort from back-up Jake Allen to get the Habs an undeserved 2-1 win in Ottawa.
Still think the Habs are cup contenders?
Speaking of patience, can we stop hammering the Habs faceoff percentage woes? Let’s look at age and faceoff percentage respectively of the Habs’ 4 centers: Phillip Daneault (27 - 53.3%), Jake Evans (24 - 49.3%), Nick Suzuki (21 - 40.2%), and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (20 - 45.3%). It is not a coincidence that the 3 youngest centers all have sub-50% faceoff success. Again, this points to patience.
If you're a Habs fan, can you honestly say you would trade Kotkienmi or Suzuki for anyone else at this point? We have been begging for talent at the center position since 1997 when Vincent Damphousse, Kirk Muller and Guy Carboneau took faceoffs. Furthermore, the combined age of Evans, Kotkianiemi and Suzuki is 65 years old - that is younger than my father, Uncle Rick and Uncle Bart, 3 of my biggest fans! (Growing up in the era I did, I don’t need my dad or uncles to tell me they like my blog to know that they like my blog. Which is a good thing because they don’t mention it in my presence.)
Speaking of great male role models, can we get a huge shoutout to Captain Shea Weber for playing his 1000th game? The comments from his teammates, past and present, prove what a leader and gentleman he is. Seeing his wife and 3 kids out on the ice Thursday shows he is a family man too. Given the trash we see on social media and television these days, it is great that we can point to an athlete and man like Shea Weber as a role model for any aspiring hockey player.
Regardless of the year you were born or whether or not you are certain your uncles and dad like your blog (or you, for that matter), you need to exercise patience when it comes to watching the Habs. They are young, but show a great deal of promise at all positions on the ice. Romanov is a beast and Toffoli and Anderson have a combined 17 goals already. The Habs have the best goalie combination in the North and, despite the current faceoff struggles, the position of center looks taken care of for the foreseeable future.
The struggles against Ottawa these past 2 games are a stark reminder of how hard it is to win in the NHL, regardless of the record of your opponent. It reminds me of watching football when your team gets stopped on 4th-and-1. You yell at the tv and lament that all you needed one lousy yard.
The most important thing to remember is that the other team is getting paid too.
It took me many years of grinding it out at family parties to get invited to the adult table with my uncles and father. Once I got to the adult table, the drinks tasted better and the celebrations seemed more meaningful because I earned it.
Tasting and celebrating a Stanley Cup is no different.