Sunday, December 30, 2007

Game #39

Habs Get 1 Point in the Big Apple

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Sunday December 30th, 2007
Opponent: New York Rangers
Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-4 (OT) - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (OT)
Opposition starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist (W)

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Kostitsyn(2), Tomas Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Dan Girardi, Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury, Brendan Shanahan

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 Game Without Saku this year
1st Multipe Goal Game for Andrei Kostitsyn in the NHL
1st Game Wearing the 'C' for Kovalev as a Hab
1st Game Wearing the 'A' for Markov as a Hab

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

Well I can tell you one thing - the play of the game is bound to involve A. Kostitsyn and Plekanec. Those two had a hand in all 3 of our goals and I am definitely not leaning towards a defensive play or game-saving save tonight (although I wish I could).

Our third goal, the one that looked like it may be the winner, was a beaut by Pleks. Hard work on a delayed penalty by Bouillon and Kovalev kept the play alive and gave us a very nice goal. Francis kept the play going down low for just enough time for Sergei Kostitsyn to grab the puck and throw it out front to his brother. Lundqvist was thinking shot, but instead Andrei sent a backhand, no-look, pass to Plekanec who rifled a one-timer upstairs to give the Habs a 3-2 lead.

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

Andrei Kostitsyn

Our secret prospect is on quite the tear netting another 3 points tonight. He now has 13 points in his last 12 games and is looking like the player that most of us hoped he was and that a few of us knew he was. He had a great game as he and his line carried the whole team tonight. With Plekanec, Kovalev and Kostitsyn himself all at full tilt right now it makes for very exciting hockey each time the three of them step on the ice. Between the three of them they now have 88 points and 37 goals - not so bad for our second line with 43 games left to play.

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
- Set up 2 goals tonight and now has 35 points. Looked very much at ease in his old haunts and is playing with a passion and love for the game that is noticeable night in, night out

Andrei Kostitsyn
- The 22 year old had a great game and a great trip. His season to date has far exceeded most people's expectations, but it his play since the call-up of his younger brother that is really turning heads

Tomas Plekanec
- In Koivu's absence he stepped up and played the role of #1 centre very well as his line was quite dominant. The problem was that no one filled his void tonight as #2 centre. Had Locke's equipment arrived with him I believe that Habs fans would have gotten a quick glimpse at a very good, forgotten, prospect and it may just have meant the difference between L and W


Josh Gorges
- Another solid game from yet another forgotten prospect. Don't let Gorges' 122 NHL games fool you into thinking he is old. The 23 year old is still very much a work in progress, but has taken strides over the course of this 6 game road trip to move up in the defenceman pecking order. Streit to me is a no-brainer as a regular D and now the choice for #6 comes down to Gorges and O'Byrne - Dandenault, barring catastrophe, will never play D for the Habs again

Andrei Markov
- 3 of the Habs defencemen made critical mistakes and 3 didn't, so this choice was really a toss up between Markov and Streit. I think that Markov had the stronger game though. He was effective in all facets of the game tonight. I was happy to see him wearing the A; it just shows how much he has come as a player and a leader since joining the team from Russia and knowing little to no English at all


Cristobal Huet
- This was probably Huet's worst game since his return to play. That being said he still got us a point. When your goalie plays his worst game in a while and you are beaten on a breakaway in OT you know that your team is doing well. I came across a very interesting stat tonight concerning Huet. Since the lockout he leads all goalies in save % with a .923 efficiency. The next 4 goalies on the list are Vokoun, Luongo, Brodeur and Lundqvist. I would say that this is quite an amazing feat. All this time people have been asking if Huet is a #1 goalie - well he is, he is THE #1 goalie! Keep playing him and a playoff berth will be ours

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

Kovalev, like Saku, is a big-game player and anytime you play your old team (a team with which you started your career, won a cup with and had two stints on) it is a big game. Kovy played very well tonight and led the charge for the Habs. His passing and play-making were in top form tonight and he continues to show moves and plays we have never seen before. So many players tend to repeat the same plays over and over, but with Alex you can always count on something new, different and sure enough, exciting.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good

Overall Comments

A loss is always disappointing, but give it to me in OT, at the end of a long trip over the holiday period and the disappointment soon fades. This isn't a game we should have won, but merely a game we could have won. I guarantee that if you put yourself in a position where you could win all 82 games then you will make the playoffs. No team is going to win each game, but if you compete and keep yourself in it till the end you will come out with more points than not. Making the playoffs means being better than at least 7 teams over the course of the season. So far we have done just that, we have out-played, out-hustled and, to no ones surprise, out-pointed more than 7 teams. If we keep this up then we'll be playing hockey in May and with a little luck in June.

The game was exciting and quick and was quite fun to watch. I can't imagine too many better places to be than Manhattan on the 30th of December either, but watching from home was the next best thing. We only dressed 19 players tonight as Saku was out with the flu and his last minute replacement, Corey Locke, wasn't ready in time. People always seem to criticize Koivu saying that he isn't a #1 centre (to which I always reply - if he isn't then there are only about 4 in the league anyway and what are the chances we'd get one of them), that he is too small, not dominant enough. Well, after watching this game it was noticeable that he wasn't there, he brings so much to the table and makes his line-mates 100 times better. Tonight we had 1 scoring threat, and albeit it almost worked, but with Saku in there we have 2 quality lines and 2 proper scoring lines.

We held New York to just 21 shots tonight and they only managed to register a grand total of 1 in the 2nd period. Unfortunately we matched their level tonight, sinking down to a sub-par 21 shots ourselves. I am happy with the point and happy with the game, but tonight we played down to an old, tired team's level. What we needed to do was set our own tempo, like we did in Miami and Tampa and forget what the other team is offering. You can't blame the boys though, 8 points of a possible 12 and a few fine personal performances is good enough for now. Time now for the Habs to have a little fun with 3 days off, perhaps they could find a party or two in New York tonight and tomorrow, I hear that Kovy knows a few places.

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