The Canadiens Game in Review
Date: Friday December 28th, 2007
Opponent: Florida Panthers
Venue: BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL
Final Score: 5-1 - Win
Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Tomas Vokoun (L), Craig Anderson
Habs goalscorers: Guillaume Latendresse, Michael Ryder, Christopher Higgins. Tom Kostopoulos, Mark Streit
Opposition goalscorers: Olli Jokinen
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 Win Against Florida in the past 2 seasons
1st Even-Strength Goal for Kostopoulos as a Hab
Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...
Like last night Habs goals were the big story of this game and for the goal and play of the game I am going to one very unlikely (and relieved) goal-scorer: Michael Ryder. Josh Gorges made a beautiful pass up the right hand boards to Ryder that led to a 2-on-1 with Higgins. Everyone was expecting the snake-bitten Ryder to have a shot, but instead he passed it to Higgins on his left. Higgins then fed the puck right back to Ryder where all he had to do was tap it into the net.
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...
The Habs are a different team up front and all over the ice when Huet plays. They don't seem to be bothered by being badly out shot (21-41 tonight) as they always seem to get more quality chances than the opposition anyway. Huet looked solid and right from the get-go looked like he was there to play and there to win. He made a few spectacular saves that kept the scoreline well in the Habs' favour.
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)...
- Had 3 points tonight and looked very good along side Ryder and Lapierre. Those 3 have been playing well the past 2 games together and if they keep it up they give us a very good third option. Good speed and hustle tonight for Higgs
- He got in Florida's face all night and it worked. He reminds me a lot of a Claude Lemieux type player. When Lapierre is at his best he can also be an offensive threat as he was tonight setting up his linemates and having a few chances of his own
- A goal and an assist and all of a sudden he is at 22 points. His goal was superb, mostly thanks to a glorious pass from Higgins. Great work at the point on the PP and great fore-checking all night long
- Gorges seems to be getting more and more comfortable as a regular on this team. He contributed nicely tonight in both ends and finished at a +2. He is underrated offensively as he has looked good on the PP recently. He may be small, but tonight he used all of his size to play a very solid defensive game
- NHL.com credits him with 1 hit, but I would say that the stat-keepers down in Miami have no clue what is going on as he surely had more than that. He was a physical force all night and played a big role in shutting down Florida's 'big' names. Like Streit and Gorges he logged some good PP time
- Another great performance from Huet. He now has a Save % of .931 and ranks second in the NHL in that category (Thomas - .932). Like most of his recent outings he should have really got the shutout, but Komi made a meal of a routine play in front of the net that led to Jokinen's goal. Looked very mobile tonight as he seems to have recovered fully from his groin tear
Eyes on Kovalev
Did he flit and float? Someone ought to keep track...
He may not have notched any points tonight, but he still played a great game. He made a few spectacular moves that had the final shots gone in the net they may have snuck in for play of 2007. It was obvious that with a quick 3-0 lead the Habs were just going through the motions for the balance of the game, ensuring they got the win and spent as little energy as possible. Kovalev followed this plan, but when there was an opportunity he pounced - otherwise a solid game.
Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good
The Canadiens finally beat the Panthers after 2 seasons of trying. Coming into this game we had only scored 5 goals (in regulation) against Florida in our last 6 games. Within just over 5 minutes we had scored 3 - en-route to an impressive 5. The Habs came out flying again tonight scoring on their first 3 shots and managed to score 5 on just 21 throughout the game. Florida played better than Tampa did last night, but the Habs didn't seem to care. We made the most of our chances up front and Huet and the boys did the rest.
Our road trip can now be listed as a success and the game in New York on Sunday now becomes bonus. We are guaranteed 7 points in 6 games on this road trip, but how good would 8 or 9/12 look? After that bad start to December we are now 5-2-2 in our last 9 games and we finally seem to have a few issues sorted out as a team.
- Huet is our #1 and right now he is seeing #1 minutes.
- Ryder is good enough to play on our third line even if he's in a slump.
- Brisebois has no place on our team. (We our 9-2-1 without him)
These 3 things in particular had been bothering me early in the month, but it now seems that the coaching staff has got it right. This organization has the tools to be a winner, it now becomes a matter of knowing which tools to use and which tools should never play in the NHL again.