Thursday, January 03, 2008

Game #40

Habs Start 2008 With Big Home Win

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday January 3rd, 2008
Opponent: Tampa Bay Lightning
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 6-3 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Cristobal Huet (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Karri Ramo (L)

Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev, Christopher Higgins, Michael Ryder (2), Andrei Kostitsyn, Kyle Chipchura
Opposition goalscorers: Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Vaclav Prospal

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 of 2008 for the Habs
1st Home Goals for Michael Ryder this season

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

Goaltending and defence were indeed a huge factor in our win tonight, but our goal-scoring, which has been great of late, is what really made the difference. Kostitsyn and Chipchura's goals were the timeliest of the bunch and basically sealed the victory for the Habs, but I see them more as turning points rather than plays of the game.

The Play of the Game came on our first goal scored by none other than Alex Kovalev on the Power-Play. We were playing with a 2-man advantage when Saku received a pass in the slot and fired a one-timer off the bar. The puck rebounded all the way to the right point where Streit picked it up. At that moment Tampa's first penalized player was skating back into the mix. Streit fired a crisp, precise pass right to Ryder in the low-left slot. Ryder took his time, faked a shot and the made a move down low around Ramo. He then slid a beautiful pass right to Kovalev who merely tapped it into the net.

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

Michael Ryder

Ryder tonight looked a lot like the Ryder we all grew to love over the past 3 seasons - he took shots, positioned himself in the right spots and finished plays. He assisted on Kovalev's goal and also scored 2 of his own. It may be too soon to say that he is back, but with 4 points in 3 games it is a good start. If he now finishes the season with 20 goals (he currently has 6) then I will call the season a success. He may be branded as the Bizzaro-Brian Savage, but I would take a 2nd half - 15 goal scorer any day into the playoffs.

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)...


Micael Ryder
- He seems to have found comfort on the third line which presents the Habs with quite a favorable situation. Having spent the best part of last season with only one real scoring line (Saku's) we may now have 3 options which will carry our team a lot further than in recent memory. Ryder played hard, skated hard and was full of confidence tonight

Christopher Higgins
- 3 points for Higgins tonight giving him 6 in his past 3 games and 30 overall. He was flying all over the ice and looked the best of all the young-guns on the ice (Lightning players included). Great work on the PP and PK

Andrei Kostitsyn
- His goal midway through the third, which broke a 3-3 stalemate, really got the Habs going and I believe saved the game from being taken to OT. Great skating, speed and puck-handling all night


Mark Streit
- Everyone can't get enough of Streit when he is forward because he brings so much to the table. Well, I got news for you, it is no different when he is playing defence. Playing D tonight he notched another 2 points (24 on the season) and finished +1. Aside from the numbers he looked like our steadiest blue-liner tonight. His puck-carrying and rushing skills were excellent all game

Mike Komisarek
- Like Streit Mike played a good game in his own end. Tampa's big guns did shine tonight to a certain extent, but I found that the 3 goals were all quite isolated incidents and that they didn't really dominate the play at all. Komi also got involved tonight in the offensive zone which is always a good sign


Cristobal Huet
- After a weaker game than usual at MSG on Sunday Cristo bounced back to play very well tonight. 2 of the goals were more or less unstoppable and I wouldn't consider them his fault. He made some spectacular saves all game long and got his first home win since November 5th. Kept the Habs in the game when it was 3-3 and gave the team confidence to go on the attack in the third and try to win the game

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

Kovalev finished with a modest one point tonight as the rest of the team stepped up around him. Aside from the obvious (scoring, great passes, big hits etc.) great plays there are there is one that I am always very fond of - drawing a penalty. To me drawing a penalty shows the other team's inability to contain you and this can only mean good things for your team. Tonight Kovy was very hard to contain and he must have drawn 3 penalties. Whether the PP leads to a goal or not is irrelevant as the only thing that matters is logging as much time as possible with a man advantage. His puck control tonight was superb and his stick-handling was at times mind-boggling.

Kovalev's Assessment - Very Good

Overall Comments

This game represents a great start to the year and the fact that it was at home after a long trip makes it an ideal situation. The Habs have been struggling at the Bell Centre lately and will need to find a way to win at home more regularly if they want to make the playoffs. We were admittedly playing the worst road team in the NHL, but you still have to show up for these games. Complacency has cost the Habs points all year and tonight I feared with our recent road success the importance of this game may be lost on some. It was a strong team effort, and despite letting Tamp back in it, I felt we were in control the whole game and were never at serious risk of losing the game in regulation.

One thing that I particularly liked about tonight's effort, which is quite a change from the team I watched in November and early December, is that when we were tied at 3 in the 3rd we kept trying to score, we went for the win. Too many times have I seen the Habs happy with a similar scoreline only to be scored on in the last 2 minutes and inevitably leave the rink with 0 points. The problem with playing for OT is that you are asking the other team if they can score on you. Tonight we didn't want to see if Tampa could score on us as we were too busy putting it in their net in the third.

We now have 47 points in the bank as we are one game shy of the halfway mark. Last season, as we all know, we had 47 points after 34 games, but didn't even make the playoffs. The lesson to be learned from that is; no matter how well you are doing you must never stop going for 2 points in each game. There are so many teams around us in the standings that could leapfrog us in a matter of days if we lost a few in a row. The good news is that we have about half the amount of points needed this season, the challenging bit becomes repeating what we have just done and finishing the season strong.

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