Friday, March 4, 2011

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

At the tail-end of a disappointing career, Sergei Samsonov did one last favor to the Habs. It was a fitting swan song, a move that he had repeated so many times while wearing the Blue-Blanc-Rouge of the Montreal Canadiens. It's a move that speaks to his mentality, the philosophy of a forward who made it work during his rookie year, and who continued going back to the well long after it had dried up.

Sergei Samsonov loves to stickhandle in the slot. It was the foundation for so many highlight reels when he out-prettied Joe Thornton for the Calder Trophy back in 1998. And when it stopped working after a few magical years, no worries, he kept on doing it. Of course, he had his moments. During the Oilers' Cup run in 2006, it worked spectacularly (once). In Montreal, it never did. Over and over, Samsonov would have the puck on his stick for a sure goal, only to make that one more move that either put himself out of position, or gave the other team enough time to strip him of the puck.

We all know how that movie ended. Montreal unloaded Samsonov on Chicago, after which he toiled in obscurity in North Carolina, where no one goes to see the games of an exciting perennial contender. Last week Sergei packed his bags for Miami, where he has begun the twilight of his disappointing career. He'll play out the remainder of his contract in Florida this season, after which he'll most likely go back to Russia, or play for under a million on the fourth line somewhere like Columbus.

Last night, he pulled the same stunt that bought him a one-way ticket on the Montreal Boo Train. But this time, it worked in Montreal's favor. Halfway through the third period, Samsonov had a chance to bust Carey Price's shutout bid. He stickhandled his way into the slot for a good shot that Price only beat with a better save. A few second later, Samsonov had a goal on his stick. All he had to do was fire a backhand shot over Price's pad. And what did he do? He stickhandled his way over to the post, where Price was waiting for the weak, harmless shot that followed.

So thank you, Sergei. We got to see that magical, useless stickhandling one last time. And Habs fans thank you for helping Carey Price earn his seventh shutout of the season. It was a fitting farewell, Sergei, and we salute you for it.

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