Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Game #24

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Tuesday November 27th, 2007
Opponent: Toronto Maple Leafs
Venue: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON

Team Stripes

Final Score: 4-3 (SO) - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Vesa Toskala (L)

Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev (2, 1-SO), Guillaume Latendresse (Andrei Kostitsyn - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Darcy Tucker, Mats Sundin (1, 1-SO)

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 Multiple Goal-Game of the year for Kovalev
1st In All-Star Voting - Markov, Huet
1st In PP goals in the NHL - Kovaelev (8)
1st Shootout Goals for Kovalev and Kostitsyn this season

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

This game was quite action-packed with a lot of good plays. For the play of the game I'm going right back to the second period to the goal that made it 1-1 and calmed my concerns about the Habs ever scoring a goal again.

Kovalev was in good control of the puck on the PP at his usual right-wing, half-board position. He saucered a pass to Markov at the left point. Markov faked the shot and slid it right back to the un-marked Kovalev. Having the whole Toronto defence as well as Toskala committed to Markov's shot bought Alex some time. He, however, used none of the extra time given to him as he unloaded a top-corner, far-side, one-timer to put us on the scoreboard.

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

Alexei Kovalev

2 goals and another in the shootout is most certainly enough for Alex to win the puck. He played a great offensive game tonight. In the past few games it has been his hitting and defensive play which have stood out, today though it was his offence. He now leads all NHL players in Power-Play goals and is keeping his overall goal-scoring pace very steady; now with 12 on the season.

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)...


Saku Koivu
- Until the last minute of the game Saku was the player of the game for me despite Kovalev's 2 goals. A play he made that eventually lead to Toronto's tying goal was a single bad play in an otherwise exceptional night. Dominated the play down low in The Leafs end, worked well with both Higgins and Latendresse and then with Ryder in OT

Kyle Chipchura
- I am liking what I have seen from this young rookie so far this year. He has been somewhat overlooked all season (as has Grabovski) with most of the media's attention going towards Price. He seems to be developing into the type of player that could one day win the Selke Trophy. Gee, I wonder how that happened? He was very calm in his own end tonight and amazed me with the number of smart plays he made; plays we don't see our veterans make nearly enough of

Alexei Kovalev
- A force all night in Toronto's end, especially on the PP. His tricks worked well all game on the speed-challenged Leafs defence who are still trying to figure out who Wozniewski is and how on earth he scored an NHL contract (must have the same agent as one of our D-men...)


Andrei Markov
- Markov's play on the first goal was fantastic and it is surely a play that most NHL QBs wouldn't make, come to think of it until this year we had one purpose for the QB - tee-it-up. A very strong game in his own end; it is no surprise that the fans of the league have voted for him more than any other Eastern Conference defenceman in the All-Star voting

Mike Komisarek
- Toronto took 46 shots and that number could have been a lot higher as the Habs blocked 17 more. Of those 17 Mike blocked 6 himself. He remains second on the NHL's shot-block list behind only the great Anton Volchenkov. Used his physical attributes well tonight, but didn't get sucked into going for the hit every time. Markov and Komi did an excellent job limiting Toronto's top-line's amount of scoring chances


Carey Price
- This should have been Huet's game in my mind, but judging by recent history versus Toronto I suppose Price deserved some consideration. He played outstanding tonight making a lot of very solid and timely saves. His positioning and lateral movement were great. Not his best game stickhandling the puck, but no major mistakes to speak of. Once again was very reliable in the shootout as he only conceded one to The Leafs, and of course it was to Habs-Killer #1 - Mats Sundin

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

Tonight we got our power-play chances and that meant a chance for Kovalev to go to work. If you were wondering where Souray and Ryder's goals would come from this year on the PP you have to look no further than #27. He has become the dominant player (as I believe he always was; and was the key to Souray's success) of the man-advantage and I am wondering if we'll soon start seeing him out there for the full 2 minutes. He could play 1 minute with Koivu and Higgins and then another with Kostitsyn and Plekanec. His 2 goals tonight were goal-scorers goals and his shootout goal was fantastic. He has been playing as well as he did last year, but surprisingly not too much better. It is amazing how points on the scoresheet can shut the media up. Of course it helps that his PP job has changed from last year. Last season his job was to distract opposing teams and draw 1, 2 even 3 penalty-killers towards him to allow for the big Souray shot. This year his job is a little more glamorous; put the puck in the net.

Kovalev's Assessment - Excellent

Overall Comments

This game really seemed like a must-win for both clubs so the fact that it went to OT should come as no surprise to anyone. The first period was played cautiously by both teams, with neither team making much of an attempt at scoring. Once Toronto scored to make it 1-0 in the 2nd the game changed. It was at that point that Montreal started trying to score and it almost seemed that they scored their first 2 goals at will; they were only separated by 2:18. We were outshot tonight, but I felt that we weren't outplayed. The good thing about having a good goalie, like Price or Huet, is that you can afford to get outshot, you can leave your keeper alone more to face the shots. It is no wonder that a team like Toronto feels like they have to outshoot their opponent just for a chance to win. With their goaltending situation and their inability to find the back of the net their only chance is to just keep the shots coming. Of course you can't confuse the number of shots with the number of quality chances, because tonight we may have been outshot, but we were not out-chanced.

2 things that I didn't like tonight were a couple of the 2-on-1s against us and our play while Toronto had an empty net.

Both the 2-on-1s happened when Brisebois decided to pinch and didn't get back in time. I have no problem with defencemen pinching, if of course a legitimate scoring chance comes out of it. In both cases Brisebois made the wrong play on the pinch as his teammates either didn't see him and weren't expecting him or simply did see him and decided they'd better try their luck instead. Now, I can live with a defenceman getting caught up the ice, as he is generally there in an effort to score, but I can not tolerate when they show absolutely no effort to get back. Both times Patrice coasted back to his own end waiting to see what would come of The Leafs chance. On the first occasion Brisebois wasn't even the 3rd or 4th man back, he was 5th, in fact he waited in the neutral zone for an outlet pass. I can only imagine what he would have done if he got the puck it that instance; dump-it, get hit, fall or maybe even try to get around someone, getting stripped and become the last man back yet again.

The problem I had while Toronto's net was empty was with how Saku got rid of the puck. Koivu had won the puck and was skating up the ice when he decided to dump the puck, but only to centre-ice. In this case there was no legitimate chance of him getting in to Toronto's zone to kill some time so a dump in was the right play. The thing is, though, why give it to Toronto in the neutral zone? The play to make is to take the shot on the empty net. The worst that could happen is it goes for icing and there is a face-off in our end. At that point we have a 50-50 chance of getting the puck and so do Toronto. The way Koivu did it gave Toronto a 100% of getting the puck as he gave it right to them and on top of it we didn't even get a scoring chance. Of course this was the play that lead to the goal that earned Toronto a point and may have saved a couple of jobs, so of course you can see why I am so upset.

You never like to give away a point to a team in your conference, but judging by the Habs recent woes who cares, all that matters is 2 points for us. This week has the potential to be somewhat of a turning point for us. Do we prolong our 'slump' and fall down in the standings or do we have a good week and show that last week was the anomaly. I would have to say that thanks to tonight's result a good week is well within our grasp and it is an opportunity that we should not let goto waste. We still have a ton of games left this season and all that matters is points. It doesn't matter who played well or who didn't, it doesn't matter how many losing streaks we had or how many road games we won. All that matters is points and tonight we can put 2 more in the bank.

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