Friday, December 10, 2010

Habs pregame - Q&A with Topham (@Topham79) from Lions in Winter

UPDATE: Topham also asked me a few questions about the Wings and Habs, you can read his post here!

I've gotten a bit bored lately with the whole preview thing. Had a few concepts I tried, but I didn't like any of them. So I will quit of droning the same thing again and again about what we did wrong the last game (I already told you in the recap), who is playing (fifteen other bloggers already told you) and that this opponent "always plays us hard", but that we can beat them if "we play up to our potential" (duh, we're the best team in the league, on paper and in real life, so of course we can). Instead, I will try and find a blogger from the opposing team to tell us a little about their thoughts on their team's season and on what to expect for the game.

Before we head there I just have to note that this game is gonna be tough, against a speedy, very good team and that the losing streak really needs to be snapped tonight.

For today's inaugural edition of this I was lucky enough to get a Q&A with Topham from the excellent Habs blog Lions in Winter. Here's what he had to say:

1. The Habs have looked great so far this year, what reasons are behind the improvement from last year?
Topham: They’ve certainly had some great games and are avoiding terrible games thus far. To be honest, I think the secret of their success lies in that. They have been prepared for each game they have played in, which has not always been the case in the past. They have scored first a whopping 18 times in 28 games, and started 16 of their 18 victories that way. The flip side is a 2-6-2 record when digging out of a hole

2. Will they be able to hold on for the entire season?
Topham: Hold on? Yes. They have shown they have the discipline and the personnel they need to be a division leader, or at least challenge for that title (albeit in an easier division than the Wings’). I think they’ll be in the playoffs now, which is a change from what I thought at the beginning of the season.

But, I don’t think that we’ll be talking about them as a team that was consistently impressive for 6 months. Some of their success depends on scoring first, as the forwards don’t favour playing against teams that are shutting down to hold a lead. Sooner or later, there will be a stretch where by luck alone the team falls behind to start a few games.

3. Which player do you guys plan to boo next?
Topham: Funny question. I guess Montreal fans have a reputation that stretches a long way.

On your team? Hopefully Bertuzzi. Being in the West, Montrealers haven’t had a full chance to boo him for his past actions. The most knowledgeable fans might boo Doug Janik, (he played two uneventful games with the Habs 2 seasons ago) because former Habs are always shown affection with a good booing.

But you probably meant on our own team, didn’t you? Well that one’s tricky, there’s never really a plan as such. Brisebois was booed for consistently passing better to opposition players than to our own, ditto for Souray when he went down. Theodore was booed for forgetting how to play. Being a goaltender in Montreal you get 2 bad games before booing (maybe one), so Price isn’t far from a booing, nor Auld. Gomez might be getting boos already, haven’t heard.

Montreal fans also all want to boo the GM on a hair’s trigger, so if a trade is made the fans don’t like expect either a) the player acquired, or b) the player who stayed and took the place of the dearly missed to be booed on the GM’s behalf.

4. Going into this game, what do you fear about the Wings? What should the Wings be looking out for?
Topham: Personally, if I were a player, I would fear the Wings ability to keep the puck. If the Wings score first, which is probably a 50:50 proposition at this point, then how do our forwards get in the door?

It gives me great pleasure to say it, but the Wings should fear a very similar thing from the Habs (we’ve been admiring the Wings for so long now). If the Canadiens get the lead, they are excellent at giving away the easy shot and protecting the net from dangerous attempts. They don’t kill with possession (which would be my preference), but they kill by leading shooters into paths and cleaning up messes quickly.

5. Predict the final result of the game and tell us why!
Topham: This may sound arbitrary, but I think it will be a shootout. The Canadiens haven’t had one yet, and the Wings haven’t piled them up either. Two good young goalies, defenses that know what they’re doing and competent attacks. I think 2-2 sounds about right.

The shootout will go to you guys, and Montreal fans will hold a protest about the withdrawal of points for losing in a shootout. Bettman will be booed the next time he’s in Montreal. Until Bettman’s next visit, they might boo the next shortest person associated with the NHL; he’s bound to reside in Montreal anyway.

Thanks to Topham for answering the questions!

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