If you watched the games this weekend, you'd be feeling down enough. But the Montreal media, the blogosphere and frothing pessimists have taken this 50-game mark as a definitive opportunity to kick all optimists while they're down.
I have to concede that we do join in the fun. In my case, I tried to limit the sucker punch to the area of your cranium reserved for feelings of pity and/or NHL forwards incapable of, well, going forward. But in general I think we try to portray our general and misguided optimism that once led us to believe the Habs would score 5 goals in 20 minutes to keep the playoff series against the Canes alive and still leads us to believe that anything is possible in 2010.
On that note, I direct all the pessimists to read the latest doom and gloom churned out from Pat Hickey and Eyes on the Prize. I invite all left (optimists, I presume) to consider all the good stuff ahead:
1) We won't need 93 points this year
A lot of articles point to the wins the Canadiens will need to achieve their 2009 point total which saw them into the playoffs on a tie-break. Don't believe the hype. Because the whole East has done a tremendous impression of the Southeast division this year, the West has won 96 of 170 contests. That means there are less points to actually go around.
Because some games are East vs. East, there are a minimum number or points left to be spread around us and our rivals. By my count the minimum is 392 points (or about 26 points each), but that would mean no OTLs and losing all games to the West form here. The maximum is 788 points (or 52 each), which means winning all Western games and going to OT each and every time out in intra-conference games – just as nonsensical.
Consider this, though, if trends continue as they've been going then there are 537 points to go around all Eastern teams. That means about 36 points each. If the Canadiens steal points over and above 36 from the right teams (or if Western teams, top Eastern or bottom Eastern teams do) then we're in like Flynn.
So banish 93. I won't promise 86 points will do it, but it could well suffice. 18 wins from 32 games doesn't seem impossible. Neither does 15-11-6...
2) More interesting games
I'm not only referring to Habs games here – those are always interesting. But maybe you'll all join me in becoming the newest big fans of New Jersey, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Washington and every Western team playing the East.
At the beginning of the year, I couldn't care less about Sabres v. Panthers or Caps v. Isles. But now these games take on a new sheen. If the Canadiens had put more points in the bank, what would I worry about when Sportscentre fires up on off days?
3) Some GMs are ready to take the dive
In Montreal, it's unheard of. Tank a season? No chance. But as parity is shown to be for the mediocre, teams that see little chance of Stanley's Cup may look to the lottery ball instead. Teams like Tampa who need more young core, Florida who can't alienate anymore fans and Hurricanes who might finally tank it properly all could go for it. We play these teams. We can win these games if they let us.
4) Teams will start playing their back-ups
It goes hand in hand with the above, but winning teams will also join the ranks. When planning for long runs of games and expected playoff workloads, back-up goalies start to see the light of day. If you were choosing teams to send Yann Danis against, wouldn't league worst in shots for look good? Ah, our clever ruse...
5) More features on Latendresse, Koivu and Kovalev
At first it seemed like we may miss our old friends, but as the Habs slip while others flourish (more or less), we get constant updates on how our departed heroes are doing. It makes it seem like they never left.
6) You can enjoy the Olympic hockey for the hockey
Imagine if you can being a Pens fan. The Olympics are a nightmare. First of all, your country entrusted player selection to a crack team of GMs who haven't seen the happy side of 90 points in some time. Next, all your best players are going and playing for countries you've barely heard of, let alone can point to on a map (Canada, Russia) and risk injuring themselves in a pursuit you don't understand.
The Habs have no such conundrum. Firstly, many players played poorly enough thus far to ensure a lengthy beach volleyball tournament will be their only chance at injury in late February. Secondly, what's the difference? The Olympic medal will be the only award anyone of the players gets a chance to look at this season. No one, after Pat Hickey has confirmed our doom, need worry about a twisted ankle ruining a Cup run.
So you see there's plenty to keep your spirits up. A few are reasons to believe this mediocrity will be enough, some that the mediocrity will bring benefits and then the final consolations of the Olympic tournament.
It's not as bad as the naysayers say. Keep the chins up Habs fans. Go Habs. Go.
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