Chalk it up to my Eastern European Jewish ancestry: No matter how good things seem, disaster is always just around the corner, where vodka-swilling Cossacks (many of whom bear an uncanny resesmblance to Sergei Samsonov) are saddling up to shatter shtetl tranquillity.
There is no fiddler on the roof of the Bell Centre (there would be if they could book Itzhak Perlman and charge $300 a ticket). But if I were a rich man, I wouldn’t bet my stock portfolio on a deep playoff run without the Captain.
Canadiens need one point to clinch the Northeast Division and a Top Two playoff seeding. In the worst-case scenario, they could tumble to sixth.
One point in three games: no problem, right?
But they’lll have to do it without Saku Koivu.
The captain’s left foot is broken.
I hear hoofbeats – and it’s not the Musical Ride.
If you were listening to CKAC Sunday afternoon – which I was,
because I have no life – you heard many callers suggesting that the
loss of Saku Koivu would cripple the Canadiens. He wasn’t having a
great season, they said. Just shift Sergei Kostitsyn to centre and
everything will be fine.
Saku Koivu is having a sub-par season statistically. He has 16 goals – the same as
Guillaume Latendresse, who’s played a lot fewer minutes. Koivu’s 40
assists put him one behind Andrei Markov. A year ago, he posted 22 goals and 53 assists, both career bests.
He also has 93 minutes in penalties – a career high. And too many were cheesy offensive-zone hooks and holds.
So, not a stellar season.
yourself, however, what Koivu’s point total would be if Michael Ryder
were having a Michael Ryder season. Or if Christopher Higgins had
cashed even half of the chances Koivu has put on his stick. Or if the captain didn’t have to centre a constant stream of new linemates.
there are the intangibles – stuff that doesn’t show up on the
scoresheet, like quiet leadership and the inspiration generated by a man who
beat cancer and a career-threatening eye injury.
Another factor that doesn’t show up in the stats: fatigue among opposing defenceman who have to chase around after a quick, shifty, tenaciouis and very smart centre who, lack of size notwithstanding, is very tough to knock off the puck.
As befits a savvy veteran, Koivu has paced himself and saved his best hockey for crunch time. He was outstanding in the March run that led to clinching a playoff position.
Saku Koivu is a helluva hockey player.
You don’t need 5768 years of anxiety to realize Canadiens will have trouble winning without him.