Saturday, November 24, 2007

Game #23

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday November 24th, 2007
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 0-3 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Jocelyn Thibault (W)

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Jaroslav Spacek, Thomas Vanek, Jochen Hecht

2007/08 first
There's a first time for everything, so they say. What they didn't tell you is that every game, something happens for the first time, you just have to look harder in March...

1st Back-To-Back Regulation Losses this season
1st Game in which we've been shutout
1st Time Francis Bouillon has been a healthy scratch this year

Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

This wouldn't be too hard if I considered writing about some Buffalo plays, but since I don't there wasn't too much to choose from. There were no goals, no good chances and no real great saves. The play of the game goes to a thunderous bodycheck by Kovalev on Henrik Tallinder knocking him out of the game. When a hit from your sniper is the play of the game (as it was on Monday) you know you didn't have a great game.

Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Cristobal Huet

Huet didn't have his best game of all time tonight, but he held us in it for long enough, right till the end actually. He gave the Habs a chance to perhaps make something of this game by only letting in 2 of his 34 shots. The bad news for Cristo was that it didn't matter at all. No offence tonight meant it was going to be a battle to even score one goal. No defence meant that Huet would have had to have been at his absolute best just to make a single point a possibility.

Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...


Alexei Kovalev
- He was our top forward, showing off all his favorite moves. Had a few decent hits and quite a lot of quality Kovy-puck time in the offensive zone, but he was alone in his effort

Michael Ryder
- Made a few chances for himself and his line, but nothing out of this world. Showed that he has great team spirit with his play on the 3rd line. A lot of top-line players would shutdown when they are demoted (Samsonov), but Ryder kept his head high. The effort was there in a big way tonight, as it has been all season, the puck just isn't going in

Andrei Kostitsyn
- Lead all Habs in shots and like Ryder bounced a bit between lines. Seems to be at his best beside Kovalev and Kovalev seems to be his best beside Koivu. I wonder how long until we see the KKK line? Or maybe it would be better if we just left that one alone. A few good shifts, one of the few Habs showing a sustained effort tonight


Josh Gorges
- He didn't have the best game in the defensive zone making a few mistakes, but then again so did all of his teammates. The good news is none of his resulted in goals; which on most nights isn't enough to get in the dome, but when it is 0-3 to Thibault it becomes a stretch for any of the Habs to get in here. His offensive play was inspiring showing that he could be quite a decent rushing defenceman. Let's not all forget that Josh is still a very young man with his confidence shattered right now - with time and patience we just might have something here

Roman Hamrlik
- Strong play in our own end again tonight. Roman provided his usual mix of steady, calming defensive play along with a few big hits and a little bit of rough play. The PP didn't go great for the Habs tonight, but Hamrlik was decent enough at his point position


Cristobal Huet
- Remarkably the Habs were in this game until about the last 2 minutes; that is all thanks to Cristo. He never made any huge, outstanding saves, but I attribute that to his good positioning. The second goal that Buffalo scored was a bit unlucky as Huet was unable to control the rebound. He seems to have taken a step backwards in that area this season which is quite disappointing as that was always one of his main qualities. I would hope that his recent performances, despite the team's results, will earn him a start in Toronto on Tuesday; I think he deserves it.

Eyes on Kovalev
Did he flit and float? Someone ought to keep track...

Tonight was a tough game for Alex and the Habs. A lot of Kovalev's chances that he had this game were going in for him earlier in the year and that of course made the difference between L and W. He spent enough time on the PP tonight (over 4 minutes) to make something happen, but thinks just didn't click. His physical play has picked up as of late and that is a good thing for us, as long as it doesn't take away from what we need the most - his goals.

Kovalev's Assessment - Good

Overall Comments

If I hear someone tell me that we ran into a hot goalie I will lose it on them. If we didn't score tonight because Thibault was 'hot' then I wonder if we'll ever score a goal again. You can use the goalie excuse when you lose to Brodeur, Luongo or Hasek, but not with Thibault. Jocelyn is not hot by any means, his numbers show that he is not even good, and I think I can say on all of your behalf that he was never a good, reliable goalie. Every team has a goalie and when you're lucky enough you may even have a chance to play their washed-up backup. When that happens you must take advantage of the chance and not squander it. Using the 'we hit a hot goalie' excuse for Thibault would be as though you were saying ' we got burned tonight because they had a guy standing in front of the net'. It just won't fly this year with the Habs, we have to be better than this, we have been better than this. Our offence is to blame here; they must find a way to do better than they did tonight otherwise it will a long season, much longer than last year.

The game never really seemed to get going for the Habs. The only possibility is that they thought they had a fourth period coming to start showing some movement towards the new-found Vezina candidate. This is a game that will hopefully be forgotten quickly as we don't want this result and performance to be the ones we look at in two months time as the answer to 'when did Carbo lose control of them?'.

One thing that did annoy me was that with 7 minutes left and then again 2 minutes later we were put on the PP and Carbo did nothing to change our fate. He just kept status quo, and big surprise, we didn't score. How about pulling Huet with 4, 5 even 6 minutes left to try and get one? This may not be what 99.9% of coaches would do, but maybe they are all wrong. At some point great players and coaches alike have to do something different, they have to offer something we haven't seen before otherwise I think the play becomes to stale. I think it was pretty obvious that we weren't going to score on the 5-on-4 at the end; Buffalo knew it and unfortunately, I think so did we. To me losing 2-0 or 3-0 makes no difference, so I think you have to take every chance to get a goal. If you have a chance for a 2-man PP to make it 2-1 with 3 minutes left why not take it? Tonight Carbo's lack of creativity and his eagerness to use his usual solution of line-juggling made this game hard to watch. Good coaches find ways to make good teams win games and great coaches find ways for average teams to win. If we want the playoffs and the Cup we need Carbo to be great.

This week ended as I feared it would - 1-3 with a measly 2 points. We are 3-5-0 in our last 8 games with all of those losses coming against Buffalo and Ottawa. Our inability to beat certain teams will surely come back to haunt us; to get to the cup we will surely have to get through at least one of Toronto, Buffalo or Ottawa. Tuesday night's game in Toronto now has huge meaning to both teams. Both us and the Leaves are coming off pretty bad little streaks that we both could really use the win. Nothing would be better than getting out of slump, nothing other than getting out of a slump and prolonging Toronto's of course.


  1. The beginning of the end? At least the end of the early start Montreal has shown in the last couple of seasons. Hopefully this year they can pick up their game again when last year they let it fall apart (even before the flu bug). I agree with you that Huet should start against Toronto - he's better than Price and a good game now could really change momentum for the entire team.

  2. I think this team has to go into every game with the mindset that they are underdogs, which shouldn't be hard because when they don't have that mindset, they are.

  3. Agree with both of you.

    The one positive thing in my mind is that if a slump does indeed come now, there is time to properly and adjust, instead of leaving 20 games to get 30 points as usual...